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H I S T E I 



fflWftJ) lEngrabnias* 


18 54. 



selected ; and it has been the writer's aim to 
present the prominent and leading traits in their 
characters, and all the important events in their 
lives, in a bold and free manner, and yet in the 
plain and simple language which is so obvious- 
ly required in works which aim at permanent 
and practical usefulness. 

C H T E N T S. 

Chapter Page 




iv. William's reign in normandy 72 







xi. prince Robert's rebellion 242 

xu. the conclusion 265 



map the situation of normandy 14 

william and arlotte 40 

William's escape 77 

the bayeux tapestry 102 


Harold's interview with edward 147 

william receiving tostig's tidings 166 

map normandy 189 

the norwegians at scarborough 218 

William's horse stepping on the embers. . . 281 


Chapter I. 

The Norman Conquest. Claim of William to the throne. 

ONE of those great events in English his- 
tory, which occur at distant intervals, and 
form, respectively, a sort of bound or landmark, 
to which all other events, preceding or follow- 
ing them for centuries, are referred, is what is 
called the Norman Conquest. The Norman 
Conquest was, in fact, the accession of William, 
duke of Normandy, to the English throne. 
This accession was not altogether a matter of 
military force, for William claimed a right to 
the throne, which, if not altogether perfect, was, 
as he maintained, at any rate superior to that 
of the prince against whom he contended. The 
rightfulness of his claim was, however, a mat- 
ter of little consequence, except so far as the 
moral influence of it aided him in gaining pos- 
session. The right to rule was, in those days, 

14 William the Conqueror. 

The right of the strongest. 

Map of Normandy. 

rather more openly and nakedly, though not 
much more really, than it is now, the right of 
the strongest. 

Normandy, "William's native land, is a very 
rich and beautiful province in the north of 
France. The following map shows its situ- 
ation : 

Map of England and part of France, showing the situation of Normandy. 

A.D. 870.] Normandy. 15 

The English Channel. Nature of the French coast. 

It lies, as will be seen upon the map, on the 
coast of France, adjoining the English Channel. 
The Channel is here irregular in form, but may 
be, perhaps, on the average, one hundred miles 
wide. The line of coast on the southern side 
of the Channel, which forms, of course, the 
northern border of Normandy, is a range of 
cliffs, which are almost perpendicular toward 
the sea, and which frown forbiddingly upon ev- 
ery ship that sails along the shore. Here and 
there, it is true, a river opens a passage for it- 
self among these cliffs from the interior, and 
these river mouths would form harbors into 
which ships might enter from the offing, were 
it not that the northwestern winds prevail so 
generally, and drive such a continual swell of 
rolling surges in upon the shore, that they choke 
up all these estuary openings, as well as every 
natural indentation of the land, with shoals and 
bars of sand and shingle. The reverse is the 
case with the northern, or English shore of this 
famous channel. There the harbors formed by 
the mouths of the rivers, or by the sinuosities 
of the shore, are open and accessible, and at the 
same time sheltered from the winds and the sea. 
Thus, while the northern or English shore has 
been, for many centuries, all the time enticing 

16 William the Conqueror. 

Nature of the English coast. Northmen and Danes 

the seaman in and out over the calm, deep, and 
sheltered waters which there penetrate the land, 
the southern side has been an almost impassa- 
ble harrier, consisting of a long line of frowning 
cliffs, with every opening through it choked with 
shoals and sand-banks, and guarded by the roll- 
ing and tumbling of surges which scarcely ever 

It is in a great measure owing to these great 
physical differences between the two shores, 
that the people who live upon the one side, 
though of the same stock and origin with those 
who live upon the other, have become so vastly 
superior to them in respect to naval exploits and 
power. They are really of the same stock and 
origin, since both England and the northern 
part of France were overrun and settled by 
what is called the Scandinavian race, that is, 
people from Norway, Denmark, and other coun- 
tries on the Baltic. These people were called 
the Northmen in the histories of those times. 
Those who landed in England are generally 
termed Danes, though but a small portion of 
them came really from Denmark. They were 
all, however, of the same parent stock, and pos- 
sessed the same qualities of courage, energy, 
and fearless love of adventure and of danger 

A.D.870.] Normandy. 17 

Character of the Northmen. Their descendants. 

which distinguish their descendants at the pres- 
ent day. They came down in those early times 
in great military hordes, and in fleets of pirat- 
ical ships, through the German Ocean and the 
various British seas, braving every hardship and 
every imaginable danger, to find new regions to 
dwell in, more genial, and fertile, and rich than 
their own native northern climes. In these 
days they evince the same energy, and endure 
equal privations and hardships, in hunting 
whales in the Pacific Ocean ; in overrunning 
India, and seizing its sources of wealth and 
power ; or in sallying forth, whole fleets of ad- 
venturers at a time, to go more than half round 
the globe, to dig for gold in California. The 
times and circumstances have changed, but the 
race and spirit are the same. 

Normandy takes its name from the North- 
men. It was the province of France which the 
Northmen made peculiarly their own. They 
gained access to it from the sea by the River 
Seine, which, as will be seen from the map, 
flows, as it were, through the heart of the coun- 
try. The lower part of this river, and the sea 
around its mouth, are much choked up with 
sand and gravel, which the waves have been 
for ages washing in. Their incessant industry 

18 William the Conqueror. 

The Dukes of Normandy. The first duke, Rollo. 

would result in closing up the passage entirely, 
were it not that the waters of the river must 
have an outlet ; and thus the current, setting 
outward, wages perpetual war with the surf 
and surges which are continually breaking in. 
The expeditions of the Northmen, however, 
found their way through all these obstructions. 
They ascended the river with their ships, and 
finally gained a permanent settlement in the 
country. They had occupied the country for 
some centuries at the time when our story be- 
gins — the province being governed by a line of 
princes — almost, if not quite, independent sover- 
eigns — called the Dukes of Normandy. 

The first Duke of Normandy, and the found- 
er of the line — the chieftain who originally in- 
vaded and conquered the country — was a wild 
and half-savage hero from the north, named 
Rollo. He is often, in history, called Rollo the 
Dane. Norway was his native land. He was 
a chieftain by birth there, and, being of a wild 
and adventurous disposition, he collected a band 
of followers, and committed with them so many 
piracies and robberies, that at length the king 
of the country expelled him. 

Hollo seems not to have considered this ban- 
ishment as any very great calamity, since, far 

A J). 870.] Normandy. 19 

History of Rollo. His rendezvous on the Scottish coast, 

from interrupting his career of piracy and plun- 
der, it only widened the field on which he was 
to pursue it. He accordingly increased the 
equipment and the force of his fleet, enlisted 
more followers, and set sail across the northern 
part of the German Ocean toward the British 

Off the northwestern coast of Scotland there 
are some groups of mountainous and gloomy 
islands, which have been, in many different pe- 
riods of the world, the refuge of fugitives and 
outlaws. Rollo made these islands his rendez- 
vous now ; and he found collected there many 
other similar spirits, who had fled to these lone- 
ly retreats, some on account of political dis- 
turbances in which they had become involved, 
and some on account of their crimes. Hollo's 
impetuous, ardent, and self-confident character 
inspired them with new energy and zeal. They 
gathered around him as their leader. Finding 
his strength thus increasing, he formed a scheme 
of concentrating all the force that he could 
command, so as to organize a grand expedition 
to proceed to the southward, and endeavor to 
find some pleasant country which they could 
seize and settle upon, and make their own. 
The desperate adventurers around him were 

20 "William the Conqueror. 

Expedition of Rollo. His descent upon Flanders. 

ready enough to enter into this scheme. The 
fleet was refitted, provisioned, and equipped. 
The expedition was organized, arms and muni- 
tions of war provided, and when all was ready 
they set sail. They had no definite plan in 
respect to the place of their destination, their 
intention heing to make themselves a home on 
the first favorable spot that they should find. 

They moved southward, cruising at first 
along the coast of Scotland, and then of En- 
gland. They made several fruitless attempts 
to land on the English shores, but were every 
where repulsed. The time when these events 
took place was during the reign of Alfred the 
Great. Through Alfred's wise and efficient 
measures the whole of his frontier had been 
put into a perfect state of defense, and Rollo 
found that there was no hope for him there. 
He accordingly moved on toward the Straits of 
Dover ; but, before passing them, he made a 
descent upon the coast of Flanders. Here there 
was a country named Hainault. It was gov- 
erned by a potentate called the Count of Hain- 
ault. Rollo made war upon him, defeated him 
in battle, took him prisoner, and then compelled 
the countess his wife to raise and pay him an 
immense sum for his ransom. Thus he replen- 

A.D. 900.1 Normandy. 21 

Rollo passes the Straits of Dover. Difficulties encountered. 

ished his treasury by an exploit which was con- 
sidered in those days very great and glorious. 
To perpetrate such a deed now, unless it were 
on a very great scale, would be to incur the 
universal reprobation of mankind ; but Rollo, 
by doing it then, not only enriched his coffers, 
but acquired a very extended and honorable 

For some reason or other, Rollo did not at- 
tempt to take permanent possession of Hain- 
ault, but, after receiving his ransom money, 
and replenishing his ammunition and stores, he 
sailed away with his fleet, and, turning west- 
ward, he passed through the Straits of Dover, 
and cruised along the coast of France. He 
found that the country on the French side of 
the channel, though equally rich and beautiful 
with the opposite shore, was in a very different 
state of defense. He entered the mouth of the 
Seine. He was embarrassed at first by the 
difficulties of the navigation in entering the 
river ; but as there was no efficient enemy to 
oppose him, he soon triumphed over these diffi- 
culties, and, once fairly in the river, he found 
no difficulty in ascending to Rouen.* 

In the mean time, the King of France, whose 

* See the map at the commencement of this chapter. 

22 William the Conqueror. 

Charles the Simple. Defeated by Rollo, 

name was Charles, and who is generally desig- 
nated in history as Charles the Simple, began 
to collect an army to meet the invader. Rollo, 
however, had made himself master of Rouen 
before Charles was able to offer him any ef- 
fectual opposition. Rouen was already a strong 
place, but Rollo made it stronger. He enlarged 
and repaired the fortifications, built store-houses, 
established a garrison, and, in a word, made all 
the arrangements requisite for securing an im- 
pregnable position for himself and his army. 

A long and obstinate war followed between 
Rollo and Charles, Rollo being almost uniform- 
ly victorious in the combats that took place. 
Rollo became more and more proud and imperi- 
ous in proportion to his success. He drove the 
French king from port to port, and from field 
to field, until he made himself master of a large 
part of the north of France, over which he 
gradually established a regular government of 
his own. Charles struggled in vain to resist 
these encroachments. Rollo continually de- 
feated him ; and finally he shut him up and 
besieged him in Paris itself. At length Charles 
was compelled to enter into negotiations for 
peace. Rollo demanded that the large and rich 
tract on both sides of the Seine, next the sea-— 

A J). 912.] Normandy. 23 

Treaty of peace. Its conditions. 

the same, in fact, that now constitutes Nor- 
mandy — should be ceded to him and his follow- 
ers for their permanent possession. Charles 
was extremely unwilling thus to alienate a 
part of his kingdom. He would not consent to 
cede it absolutely and entirely, so as to make 
it an independent realm. It should be a duke- 
dom, and not a ssparate kingdom, so that it 
might continue still a part of his own royal do- 
mains — Rollo to reign over it as a duke, and to 
acknowledge a general allegiance to the French 
king. Rollo agreed to this. The war had been 
now protracted so long that he began himself 
to desire repose. It was more than thirty years 
since the time of his landing. 

Charles had a daughter named Giselle, and 
it was a part of the treaty of peace that she 
should become Rollo's wife. He also agreed to 
become a Christian. Thus there were, in the 
execution of the treaty, three ceremonies to be 
performed. First, Rollo was to do homage, as 
it was called, for his duchy ; for it was the cus- 
tom in those days for subordinate princes, who 
held their possessions of some higher and more 
strictly sovereign power, to perform certain cer- 
emonies in the presence of their superior lord, 
which was called doing homage. These cere- 

24 William the Conqueror. 

The three ceremonies. RoIio"s pride. 

monies were of various kinds in different coun- 
tries, though they were all intended to express 
the submission of the dependent prince to the 
superior authority and power of the higher po- 
tentate of whom he held his lands. This act 
of homage was therefore to be performed, and 
next to the homage was to come the baptism, 
and after the baptism, the marriage. 

When, however, the time came for the per- 
formance of the first of these ceremonies, and all 
the great chieftains and potentates of the re- 
spective armies were assembled to witness it, 
Rollo, it was found, would not submit to what 
the customs of the French monarchy required. 
He ought to kneel before the king, and put his 
hands, clasped together, between the king's 
hands, in token of submission, and then to kiss 
his foot, which was covered with an elegantly 
fashioned slipper on such occasions. Rollo 
would do all except the last ; but that, no re- 
monstrances*, urgencies, or persuasions would 
induce him to consent to. 

And yet it was not a very unusual sign or 
token of political subordination to sovereign 
power in those days. The pope had exacted it 
even of an emperor a hundred years before; 
and it is continued by that dignitary to the 

A.P.912.] Normandy. 25 

Kissing the king's foot. The baptism and marriage. 

present day, on certain state occasions ; though 
in the case of the pope, there is embroidered 
on the slipper which the kneeling suppliant 
kisses, a cross, so that he who humbles himself 
to this ceremony may consider, if he pleases, 
that it is that sacred symbol of the divine Re- 
deemer's sufferings and death that he so rev- 
erently kisses, and not the human foot by which 
it is covered. 

Rollo could not be made to consent, himself, 
to kiss King Charles's foot; and, finally, the 
difficulty was compromised by his agreeing to do 
it by proxy. He ordered one of his courtiers 
to perform that part of the ceremony. The 
courtier obeyed, but when he came to lift the 
foot, he did it so rudely and lifted it so high as 
to turn the monarch over off his seat. This 
made a laugh, but Rollo was too powerful for 
Charles to think of resenting it. 

A few days after this Rollo was baptized 
in the cathedral church at Rouen, with great 
pomp and parade ; and then, on the following 
week, he was married to Griselle. The din of 
war in which he had lived for more than thirty 
years was now changed into festivities and re- 
joicings. He took full and peaceable possession 
of his dukedom, and governed it for the remain- 

26 "William the Conqueror. 

Roilo's peaceful and prosperous reign. Description of Normandy. - 

der of his days with great wisdom, and lived in 
great prosperity. He made it, in fact, one of 
the richest and most prosperous realms in Eu- 
rope, and laid the foundations of still higher de- 
grees of greatness and power, which were grad- 
ually developed after his death. And this was 
the origin of Normandy. 

It appears thus that this part of France was 
seized by Rollo and his Northmen partly because 
it was nearest at hand to them, being accessi- 
ble from the English Channel through the Riv- 
er Seine, and partly on account of its exceeding 
richness and fertility. It has been famous in 
every age as the garden of France, and travel- 
ers at the present day gaze upon its picturesque 
and beautiful scenery with the highest admira- 
tion and pleasure. And yet the scenes which 
are there presented to the view are wholly un- 
like those which constitute picturesque and 
beautiful rural scenery in England and Amer- 
ica. In Normandy, the land is not inclosed. 
No hedges, fences, or walls break the continuity 
of the surface, but vast tracts spread in every 
direction, divided into plots and squares, of va- 
rious sizes and forms, by the varieties of culti- 
vation, like a vast carpet of an irregular tesse- 
lated pattern, and varied in the color by a thou- 

A.D.912.] Normandy. 27 

* Scenery. Hamlets. Chateaux. Peasantry. 

sand hues of brown and green. Here and there 
vast forests extend, where countless thousands 
of trees, though ancient and venerable in form, 
stand in rows, mathematically arranged, as they 
were planted centuries ago. These are royal 
demesnes, and hunting grounds, and parks con- 
nected with the country palaces of the kings or 
the chateaux of the ancient nobility. The cul- 
tivators of the soil live, not, as in America, in 
little farm-houses built along the road-sides and 
dotting the slopes of the hills, but in compact 
villages, consisting of ancient dwellings of brick 
or stone, densely packed together along a single 
street, from which the laborers issue, in pictu- 
resque dresses, men and women together, every 
morning, to go miles, perhaps, to the scene of 
their daily toil. Except these villages, and the 
occasional appearance of an ancient chateau, no 
habitations are seen. The country seems a vast 
solitude, teeming every where, however, with 
fertility and beauty. The roads which traverse 
these scenes are magnificent avenues, broad, 
straight, continuing for many miles an undevi- 
ating course over the undulations of the land, 
with nothing to separate them from the ex- 
panse of cultivation and fruitfulness on either 
hand but rows of ancient and venerable trees. 

28 William the Conqueror. 

Public roads. Rouen. Its situation. 

Between these rows of trees the traveler sees 
an interminable vista extending both before him 
and behind him. In England, the public road 
winds beautifully between walls overhung with 
shrubbery, or hedge-rows, with stiles or gate- 
ways here and there, revealing hamlets or cot- 
tages, which appear and disappear in a rapid 
and endlessly varied succession, as the road 
meanders, like a rivulet, between its beautiful 
banks. In a word, the public highway in En- 
gland is beautiful ; in France it is grand. 

The greatest city in Normandy in modern 
times is Rouen, which is situated, as wiU be 
seen by referring to the map at the commence- 
ment of this chapter, on the Seine, half way 
between Paris and the sea. At the mouth of 
the Seine, or, rather, on the northern shore of 
the estuary which forms the mouth of the river, 
is a small inlet, which has been found to afford, 
on the whole, the best facilities for a harbor 
that can be found on the whole line of the 
coast. Even this little port, however, is so 
filled up with sand, that when the water re- 
cedes at low tide it leaves the shipping all 
aground. The inlet would, in fact, probably 
become filled up entirely were it not for artifi- 
cial means taken to prevent it. There are 

A.D.912.] Normandy. 29 

The port of Rouen. Its name of Le Havre de Grace. 

locks and gateways built in such a manner as 
to retain a large body of water until the tide 
is down, and then these gates are opened, and 
the water is allowed to rush out all together, 
carrying with it the mud and sand which had 
begun to accumulate. This haven, being, on 
the whole, the best and most commodious on 
the coast, was called the harbor, or, as the 
French expressed it in their language, le havre, 
the word havre meaning harbor. In fact, the 
name was in full le havre de grace, as if the 
Normans considered it a matter of special good 
luck to have even such a chance of a harbor as 
this at the mouth of their river. The English 
world have, however, dropped all except the 
principal word from this long phrase of designa- 
tion, and call the port simply Havre. 

From Rollo the line of Dukes of Normandy 
continued in uninterrupted succession down to 
the time of William, a period of about a hund- 
red and fifty years. The country increased all 
the time in wealth, in population, and in pros- 
perity. The original inhabitants were not, 
however, expelled ; they remained as peasants, 
herdsmen, and agriculturists, while the Norman 
chieftains settled over them, holding severally 

30 William the Conqueror. 

Intermingling of races. Superiority of the Norman stock. 

large estates of land which William granted 
them. The races gradually became intermin- 
gled, though they continued for many centu- 
ries to evince the superior spirit and energy 
which was infused into the population by the 
Norman stock. In fact, it is thought by many 
observers that that superiority continues to the 
present day. 

A.D.912.] Birth op "William. 31 

Castle at Falaise. Present ruins of the castle. 

Chapter II. 
Birth of William. 

ALTHOUGH Rouen is now very far before 
all the other cities of Normandy in point 
of magnitude and importance, and though Rol- 
lo, in his conquest of the country, made it his 
principal head-quarters and his main stronghold, 
it did not continue exclusively the residence of 
the dukes of Normandy in after years. The 
father of William the Conqueror was Robert, 
who became subsequently the duke, the sixth 
in the line. He resided, at the time when 
William was born, in a great castle at Falaise. 
Falaise, as will be seen upon the map, is west 
of Rouen, and it stands, like Rouen, at some 
distance from the sea. The castle was built 
upon a hill, at a little distance from the town. 
It has long since ceased to be habitable, but the 
ruins still remain, giving a picturesque but 
mournful beauty to the eminence which they 
crown. They are often visited by travelers, 
who go to see the place where the great hero 
and conqueror was born. 

32 "William the Conqueror. 

Scenery of the town and castle. Wall and buildings. 

The hill on which the old castle stands term- 
inates, on one side, at the foot of the castle 
■walls, in a precipice of rocks, and on two other 
sides, also, the ascent is too steep to he practi- 
cable for an enemy. On the fourth side there- 
is a more gradual declivity, up which the for- 
tress could be approached by means of a wind- 
ing roadway. At the foot of this roadway was 
the town. The access to the castle from the 
town w r as defended by a ditch and draw-bridge, 
with strong towers on each side of the gate- 
way to defend the approach. There was a 
beautiful stream of water which meandered 
along through the valley, near the tow T n, and, 
after passing it, it disappeared, winding around 
the foot of the precipice which the castle crowned. 
The castle inclosures were shut in with walls 
of stone of enormous thickness ; so thick, in 
fact, they were, that some of the apartments 
were built in the body of the wall. There were 
various buildings within the inclosure. There 
was, in particular, one large, square tower, 
several stories in height, built of white stone. 
This tower, it is said, still stands in good pres- 
ervation. There was a chapel, also, and vari- 
ous other buildings and apartments w 7 ithin the 
Walls, for the use of the ducal family and their 

A.D.912] Birth of William. 33 

Watch-towers. Sentinels. Enchanting prospect. 

numerous retinue of servants and attendants, 
for the storage of munitions of war, and for the 
garrison. There were watch-towers on the 
corners of the walls, and on various lofty pro- 
jecting pinnacles, where solitary sentinels 
watched, the livelong day and night, for any 
approaching danger. These sentinels looked 
down on a broad expanse of richly-cultivated 
country, fields beautified w T ith groves of trees, 
and with the various colors presented by the 
changing vegetation, while meandering streams 
gleamed with their silvery radiance among 
them, and hamlets of laborers and peasantry 
were scattered here and there, giving life and 
animation to the scene. 

We have said that William's father was Rob- 
ert, the sixth Duke of Normandy, so that Will- 
iam himself, being his immediate successor, was 
the seventh in the line. And as it is the design 
of these narratives not merely to amuse the 
reader with what is entertaining as a tale, but 
to impart substantial historical knowledge, we 
must prepare the way for the account of Will- 
iam's birth, by presenting a brief chronological 
view of the whole ducal line, extending from 
Hollo to William. We recommend to the read- 
er to examine with special attention this brief 

34 William the Conqueror. 

Chronological history of the Norman line. RoUo. 

account of William's ancestry, for the true 
causes which led to William's invasion of En- 
gland can not be fully appreciated without thor- 
oughly understanding certain important trans- 
actions in which some members of the family 
of his ancestors were concerned before he was 
born. This is particularly the case with the 
Lady Emma, who, as will be seen by the fol- 
lowing summary, was the sister of the third 
duke in the line. The extraordinary and event- 
ful history of her life is so intimately connected 
with the subsequent exploits of William, that 
it is necessary to relate it in full, and it be- 
comes, accordingly, the subject of one of the 
subsequent chapters of this volume. 

Chronological History of the Norman Line. 

Rollo, first Duke of Normandy. 
From A.D. 912 to A.D. 917. 

It was about 870 that Rollo was banished 
from Norway, and a few years after that, at 
most, that he landed in France. It was not, 
however, until 912 that he concluded his treaty 
of peace with Charles, so as to be fully invested 
with the title of Duke of Normandy. 

He was advanced in age at this time, and, 
after spending five years in settling the affairs 

A.D.912.] Birth of William. 35 

William I., second duke. Richard I., third duke. 

of his realm, he resigned his dukedom into the 
hands of his son, that he might spend the re- 
mainder of his days in rest and peace. He died 
in 922, five years after his resignation. 

William I., second Duke of Normandy. 
From 917 to 942. 

William was Hollo's son. He began to reign, 
of course, five years before his father's death. 
He had a quiet and prosperous reign of about 
twenty-five years, but he was assassinated at 
last by a political enemy, in 942. 

Richard I, third Duke of Normandy. 
From 942 to 996. 

He was only ten years old when his father 
w r as assassinated. He became involved in long 
and arduous wars with the King of France, 
which compelled him to call in the aid of more 
Northmen from the Baltic. His new allies, in 
the end, gave him as much trouble as the old 
enemy, with whom they came to help William 
contend ; and he found it very hard to get them 
away. He wanted, at length, to make peace 
with the French king, and to have them leave 
his dominions ; but they said, " That was not 
what they came for." 

Bichard had a beautiful daughter, named 
Emma, who afterward became a very import- 

36 "William the Conqueror. 

Richard II., fourth duke. Richard III., fifth duke. 

ant political personage, as will be seen more 
fully in a subsequent chapter. 

Richard died in 996, after reigning fifty-four 

Richard II., fourth Duke of Normandy. 
From 996 to 1026. 

Richard II. was the son of Richard I., and as 
his father had been engaged during his reign in 
contentions with his sovereign lord, the King of 
France, he, in his turn, was harassed by long- 
continued struggles with his vassals, the barons 
and nobles of his own realm. He, too, sent for 
Northmen to come and assist him. During his 
reign there was a great contest in England be- 
tween the Saxons and the Danes, and Ethel- 
red, who was the Saxon claimant to the throne, 
came to Normandy, and soon afterward mar- 
ried the Lady Emma, Richard's sister. The 
particulars of this event, from which the most 
momentous consequences were afterward seen 
to flow, will be given in full in a future chap- 
ter. Richard died in 1026. He left two sons, 
Richard and Robert. William the Conqueror 
was the son of the youngest, and was born two 
years before tins Richard II. died. 

RicHAED III., fifth Duke of Normandy. 
From 1026 to 1028. 

AJD. 1028-1035.] Biethop William. 37 

Intrigues of Robert. He becomes the sixth duke. 

' He was the oldest brother, and, of course, suc- 
ceeded to the dukedom. His brother Robert 
was then only a baron — his son "William, after- 
ward the Conqueror, being then about two 
years old. Robert was very ambitious 'and as- 
piring, and eager to get possession of the duke- 
dom himself. He adopted every possible means 
to circumvent and supplant his brother, and, as 
is supposed, shortened his days by the anxiety 
and vexation which he caused him; for Rich- 
ard died suddenly and mysteriously only two 
years after his accession. It was supposed by 
some, in fact, that he was poisoned, though 
there was never any satisfactory proof of this. 

Robert, sixth Duke of Normandy. 
From 1028 to 1035. 

Robert, of course, succeeded his brother, and 
then, with the characteristic inconsistency of 
selfishness and ambition, he employed all the 
power of his realm in helping the King of France 
to subdue his younger brother, who was evinc- 
ing the same spirit of seditiousness and insub- 
mission that he had himself displayed. His as- 
sistance was of great importance to King Hen- 
ry ; it, in fact, decided the contest in his favor ; 
and thus one younger brother was put down in 
the commencement of his career of turbulence 

38 William the Conqueror. 

Robert and Henry. William's mother. 

and rebellion, by another who had successfully 
accomplished a precisely similar course of crime. 
King Henry was very grateful for the service 
thus rendered, and was ready to do all in his 
power, at all times, to co-operate w T ith Robert 
in the plans which the latter might form. Rob- 
ert died in 1035, when William was about 
eleven years old. 

And here we close this brief summary of the 
history of the ducal line, as we have already 
passed the period of William's birth; and we 
return, accordingly, to give in detail some of 
the particulars of that event. 

Although the dukes of Normandy were very 
powerful potentates, reigning, as they did, al- 
most in the character of independent sovereigns, 
over one of the richest and most populous ter- 
ritories of the globe, and though William the 
Conqueror was the son of one of them, his birth 
was nevertheless very ignoble. His mother 
was not the wife of Robert his father, but a 
poor peasant girl, the daughter of an humble 
tanner of Falaise ; and, indeed, William's fa- 
ther, Robert, was not himself the duke at this 
time, but a simple baron, as his father was 
still living. It was not even certain that he 

A.D.1024.] Birth of William. 41 

Robert's first meeting with Arlotte. He is captivated. 

ever would be the duke, as his older brother, 
who, of course, would come before him, was also 
then alive. Still, as the son and prospective heir 
of the reigning duke, his rank was very high. 

The circumstances of Robert's first acquaint- 
ance with the tanner's daughter were these. 
He was one day returning home to the castle 
from some expedition on which he had been 
sent by his father, when he saw a group of 
peasant girls standing on the margin of the 
brook, washing clothes. They were barefooted, 
and their dress was in other respects disarrang- 
ed. There was one named Arlotte,* the daugh- 
ter of a tanner of the town, whose countenance 
and figure seem to have captivated the young 
baron. He gazed at her with admiration and 
pleasure as he rode along. H$r complexion 
was fair, her eyes full and blue, and the ex- 
pression of her countenance was frank, and 
open, and happy. She was talking joyously 
and merrily with her companions as Robert 
passed, little dreaming of the conspicuous place 
on the page of English history which she was 
to occupy, in all future time, in connection 
with the gay horseman who was riding by. 

* Her name is spelled variously, Arlette, Arlotte, Harlotte, 
and in other ways. 

42 William the Conqueror. 

Robert sends for Arlotte. Scruples of her father. 

The etiquette of royal and ducal palaces and 
castles in those days, as now, forbade that a 
noble of such lofty rank should marry a peasant 
girl. Robert could not, therefore, have Arlotte 
for his wife ; but there was nothing to prevent 
his proposing her coming to the castle and liv- 
ing with him — that is, nothing but the law of 
Grod, and this was an authority to which dukes 
and barons in the Middle Ages were accus- 
tomed to pay very little regard. There was not 
even a public sentiment to forbid this, for a no- 
bility like that of England and France in the 
Middle Ages stands so far above all the mass 
of society as to be scarcely amenable at all to 
the ordinary restrictions and obligations of so- 
cial life. And even to the present day, in those 
countries where dukes exist, public sentiment 
seems to tolerate pretty generally whatever 
dukes see fit to do. 

Accordingly, as soon as Robert had arrived 
at the castle, he sent a messenger from his ret- 
inue of attendants down to the village, to the 
father of Arlotte, proposing that she should come 
to the castle. The father seems to have had 
some hesitation in respect to his duty. It is 
said that he had a brother who was a monk, or 
rather hermit, who lived a life of reading, med- 

A.D.1024] Birth of William. 43 

Arlotte sent to the castle. Robert's affection for her. 

itation, and prayer, in a solitary place not far 
from Falaise. Arlotte's father sent immedi- 
ately to this religious recluse for his spiritual 
counsel. The monk replied that it was right 
to comply with the wishes of so great a man, 
whatever they might be. The tanner, thus re- 
lieved of all conscientious scruples on the sub- 
ject by this high religious authority, and re- 
joicing in the opening tide of prosperity and 
distinction which he foresaw for his family 
through the baron's love, robed and decorated 
his daughter, like a lamb for the sacrifice, and 
sent her to the castle. 

Arlotte had one of the rooms assigned her, 
which was built in the thickness of the wall. 
It communicated by a door with the other apart- 
ments and inclosures within the area, and there 
were narrow windows in the masonry without, 
through which she could look out over the broad 
expanse of beautiful fields and meadows which 
were smiling below. Robert seems to have loved 
her with sincere and strong affection, and to 
have done all in his power to make her happy. 
Her room, however, could not have been very 
sumptuously furnished, although she was the 
favorite in a ducal castle — at least so far as we 
can judge from the few glimpses we get of the 

44 William the Conqueror. 

Birth of William The nurse's prediction. 

interior through the ancient chroniclers' stories. 
One story is, that when William was horn, his 
first exploit was to grasp a handful of straw, 
and to hold it so tenaciously in his little fist that 
the nurse could scarcely take it away. The 
nurse was greatly delighted with this infantile 
prowess; she considered it an omen, and pre- 
dicted that the hahe would some day signalize 
himself hy seizing and holding great possessions. 
The prediction would have heen forgotten if 
William had not "become the conqueror of En- 
gland at a future day. As it was, it was re- 
membered and recorded ; and it suggests to our 
imagination a very different picture of the con- 
veniences and comforts of Arlotte's chamber 
from those presented to the eye in ducal pala- 
ces now, where carpets of velvet silence the 
tread on marble floors, and favorites repose un- 
der silken canopies on beds of down. 

The babe was named William, and he was 
a great favorite with his father. He was 
brought up at Falaise. Two years after his 
birth, Robert's father died, and his oldest broth- 
er, Richard III., succeeded to the ducal throne. 
In two years more, which years were spent in 
contention between the brothers, Richard also 
died, and then Robert himself came into posses- 

A.D.1029.] Birth of William. 45 

William's childhood. He is a universal favorite. 

sion of the castle in his own name, reigning there 
over all the cities and domains of Normandy. 

"William was, of course, now about four years 
old. He was a bright and beautiful boy, and 
he grew more and more engaging every year. 
His father, instead of neglecting and disowning 
him, as it might have been supposed he would 
do, took a great deal of pride and pleasure in 
witnessing the gradual development of his pow- 
ers and his increasing attractiveness, and he 
openly acknowledged him as his son. 

In fact, "William was a universal favorite 
about the castle. When he was five and six 
years old he w r as very fond of playing the sol- 
dier. He would marshal the other boys of the 
castle, his playmates, into a little troop, and 
train them around the castle inclosures, just as 
ardent and aspiring boys do with their com- 
rades now. He possessed a certain vivacity 
and spirit too, which gave him, even then, a 
great ascendency over his playfellows. He in^ 
vented their plays ; he led them in their mis- 
chief ; he settled their disputes. In a word, he 
possessed a temperament and character which 
enabled him very easily and strongly to hold 
the position which his rank as son of the lord 
of the castle so naturally assigned him. 

46 "William the Conqueror. 

Robert determines to visit the Holy Land. Dangers of the journey. 

A few years thus passed away, when, at 
length, Robert conceived the design of making 
a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This was a 
plan, not of humble-minded piety, but of am- 
bition for fame. To make a pilgrimage to the 
Holy Land was a romantic achievement that 
covered whoever accomplished it with a sort of 
sombre glory, which, in the case of a prince or 
potentate, mingled with, and hallowed and ex- 
alted, his military renown. Robert determined 
on making the pilgrimage. It was a distant 
and dangerous journey. In fact, the difficulties 
and dangers of the way were perhaps what 
chiefly imparted to the enterprise its romance, 
and gave it its charms. It was customary for 
kings and rulers, before setting out, to arrange 
all the affairs of their kingdoms, to provide a 
regency to govern during their absence, and to 
determine upon their successors, so as to pro- 
vide for the very probable contingency of their 
not living to return. 

As soon, therefore, as Robert announced his 
plan of a pilgrimage, men's minds were imme- 
diately turned to the question of the succession. 
Robert had never been married, and he had 
consequently no son who was entitled to suc- 
ceed him. He had two brothers, and also a 

A.D. 1031.] Birth of William. 47 

Maneuvering among the chieftains. A council of nobles. 

cousin, and some other relatives, who had claims 
to the succession. These all be^an to maneu- 
ver among the chieftains and nobles, each en- 
deavoring to prepare the way for having his 
own claims advanced, while Robert himself 
was secretly determining that the little William 
should be his heir. He said nothing about this, 
however, but he took care to magnify the im- 
portance of his little son in every way, and to 
bring him as much as possible into public notice. 
William, on his part, possessed so much per- 
sonal beauty, and so many juvenile aceomplish- 
ments, that he became a great favorite with all 
the nobles, and chieftains, and knights who 
saw him, sometimes at his father's castle, and 
sometimes away from home, in their own for- 
tresses or towns, where his father took him, 
from time to time, in his train. 

At length, when affairs were ripe for their 
consummation, Duke Robert called together a 
grand council of all the subordinate dukes, and 
earls, and barons of his realm, to make known 
to them the plan of his pilgrimage. They came 
together from all parts of Normandy, each in a 
splendid cavalcade, and attended by an armed 
retinue of retainers. When the assembly had 
been convened, and the preliminary forms and 

48 William the Conqueror. 

Robert announces his design He makes William his heir. 

ceremonies had been disposed of, Robert an- 
nounced his grand design. 

As soon as he had concluded, one of the no- 
bles, whose name and title was (xuy, count of 
Burgundy, rose and addressed the duke in re- 
ply. He was sorry, he said, to hear that the 
duke, his cousin, entertained such a plan. He 
feared for the safety of the realm when the 
chief ruler should be gone. All the estates of 
the realm, he said, the barons, the knights, the 
chieftains and soldiers of every degree, would 
be all without a head. 

" Not so," said Robert : " I will leave you a 
master in my place." Then, pointing to the 
beautiful boy by his side, he added, " I have a 
little fellow here, who, though he is little now, 
I acknowledge, will grow bigger by and by, 
with God's grace, and I have great hopes that 
he will become a brave and gallant man. I 
present him to you, and from this time forth I 
give him seizin* of the Duchy of Normandy 
as my known and acknowledged heir. And I 
appoint Alan, duke of Brittany, governor of 
Normandy in my name until I shall return, 
and in case I shall not return, in the name of 

* Seizin, an ancient feudal term denoting the inducting of 
a party to a legal possession of his right. 

A.D.1033.] Birth of William. 49 

Surprise of the assembly. The nobles do homage to William. 

William my son, until he shall become of 
manly age." 

The assembly was taken wholly by surprise 
at this announcement. Alan, duke of Brit- 
tany, who was one of the chief claimants to the 
succession, was pleased with the honor confer- 
red upon him in making him at once the gov- 
ernor of the realm, and was inclined to prefer 
the present certainty of governing at once in 
the name of others, to the remote contingency 
of reigning in his own. The other claimants 
to the inheritance were confounded by the sud- 
denness of the emergency, and knew not what 
to say or do. The rest of the assembly were 
pleased with the romance of having the beauti- 
ful boy for their feudal sovereign. The duke 
saw at once that every thing was favorable to 
the accomplishment of his design. He took 
the lad in his arms, kissed him, and held him 
out in view of the assembly. William gazed 
around upon the panoplied warriors before him 
with a bright and beaming eye. They knelt 
down as by a common accord to do him hom- 
age, and then took the oath of perpetual alle- 
giance and fidelity to his cause. 

Robert thought, however, that it would not 
be quite prudent to leave his son himself in the 

50 William the Conqueror. 

William is taken to Paris. He is presented to the French king. 

custody of these his rivals, so he took him with 
him to Paris when he set out upon his pilgrim- 
age, with a view of establishing him there, in 
the court of Henry, the French king, while he 
should himself he gone. Young William was 
presented to the French king, on a day set apart 
for the ceremony, with great pomp and parade. 
The king held a special court to receive him. 
He seated himself on his throne in a grand 
apartment of his palace, and was surrounded 
hy his nobles and officers of state, all magnifi- 
cently dressed for the occasion. At the proper 
time, Duke Robert came in, dressed in his pil- 
grim's garb, and leading young William hy the 
hand. His attendant pilgrim knights accom- 
panied him. Robert led the boy to the feet of 
their common sovereign, and, kneeling there, 
ordered William to kneel too, to do homage to 
the king. King Henry received him very gra- 
ciously. He embraced him, and promised to 
receive him into his court, and to take the best 
possible care of him while his father was away. 
The courtiers were very much struck with the 
beauty and noble bearing of the boy. His coun- 
tenance beamed with an animated, but yet very 
serious expression, as he was somewhat awed 
hy the splendor of the scene around him. He 
was himself then nine years old. 

A.D. 1035.] The Accession. 51 

Robert departs on his pilgrimage. He visits Rome and Constantinople. 

Chapter III. 
The Accession. 

AFTER spending a little time at Paris, 
Robert took leave of the king, and of 
William his son, and went forth, with a train 
of attendant knights, on his pilgrimage. He 
had a great variety of adventures, which can 
not be related here, as it is the history of the 
son, and not of the father, which is the subject 
of tliis narrative. Though he traveled strictly 
as a pilgrim, it was still with great pomp and 
parade. After visiting Rome, and accomplish- 
ing various services and duties connected with 
his pilgrimage there, he laid aside his pilgrim's 
garb, and, assuming his proper rank as a great 
Norman chieftain, he went to Constantinople, 
where he made a great display of his wealth 
and magnificence. At the time of the grand 
procession, for example, by which he entered 
the city of Constantinople, he rode a mule, 
which, besides being gorgeously caparisoned, 
had shoes of gold instead of iron; and these 
shoes were purposely attached so slightly to the 

52 William the Conqueror. 

Robert's illness. Litter bearers. 

hoofs, that they were shaken off as the animal 
walked along, to he picked up hy the populace. 
This was to impress them with grand ideas of 
the rider's wealth and splendor. After leaving 
Constantinople, Robert resumed his pilgrim's 
garb, and went on toward the Holy Land. 

The journey, however, did not pass without 
the usual vicissitudes of so long an absence and 
so distant a pilgrimage. At one time Robert 
was sick, and, after lingering for some time in 
a fever, he so far recovered his strength as to be 
borne on a litter by the strength of other men, 
though he could not advance himself, either on 
horseback or on foot ; and as for traveling car- 
riages, there had been no such invention in 
those days. They made arrangements, there- 
fore, for carrying the duke on a litter. There 
were sixteen Moorish slaves employed to serve 
as his bearers. This company was divided into 
sets, four in each, the several sets taking the 
burden in rotation. Robert and his attendant 
knights looked down with great contempt on 
these black pagan slaves. One day the caval- 
cade was met by a Norman who was returning 
home to Normandy after having accomplished 
his pilgrimage. He asked Duke Robert if he 
had any message to send to his friends at home. 

A.D. 1035.] The Accession. 53 

Death of Robert. Claimants to the crown. 

" Yes," said lie ; " tell them you saw me here, 
on my way to Paradise, carried by sixteen de- 

Rohert reached Jerusalem, and set out on 
his return ; and soon after rumors came back 
to Paris that he had died on his way home. 
The accounts of the manner of his death were 
contradictory and uncertain ; but the fact was 
soon made sure, and the news produced every 
where a great sensation. It soon appeared that 
the brothers and cousins of Robert, who had 
claimed the right to succeed him in preference 
to his son William, had only suspended their 
claims — they had not abandoned them. They 
began to gather their forces, each in his own 
separate domain, and to prepare to take the 
field, if necessary, in vindication of what they 
considered their rights to the inheritance. In 
a word, their oaths of fealty to "William were 
all forgotten, and each claimant was intent only 
on getting possession himself of the ducal crown. 

In the mean time, William himself was at 
Paris, and only eleven years of age. Pie had 
been receiving a careful education there, and 
was a very prepossessing and accomplished 
young prince. Still, he was yet but a mere 
boy. He had been under the care of a milita- 

54 William the Conqueror. 

Theroulde. William's military education. 

ry tutor, whose name was Theroulde. The- 
roulde was a veteran soldier, who had long been 
in the employ of the King of France. He took 
great interest in his young pupil's progress. 
He taught him to ride and to practice all the 
evolutions of horsemanship wdiich were required 
by the tactics of those days. He trained him, 
too, in the use of arms, the bow and arrow, the 
javelin, the sword, the spear, and accustomed 
him to wear, and to exercise in, the armor of 
steel with wdiich w T arriors were used, in those 
days, to load themselves in going into battle. 
Young princes like "William had suits of this 
armor made for them, of small size, which they 
were accustomed to wear in private in their 
military exercises and trainings, and to appear 
in, publicly, on great occasions of state. These 
dresses of iron were of course very heavy and 
uncomfortable, but the young princes and dukes 
were, nevertheless, very proud and happy to 
wear them. 

"While William was thus engaged in pursu- 
ing his military education in Paris, several com- 
petitors for his dukedom immediately appeared 
in Normandy and took the field. The strongest 
and most prominent among them was the Earl 
of Arques. His name was William too, but, to 

A.D.1035.] The Accession. 55 

The Earl of Arques. William proclaimed duke. 

distinguish him from the young duke, we shall 
call him Arques. He was a brother of Robert, 
and maintained that, as Robert left no lawful 
heir, he was indisputably entitled to succeed 
him. Arques assembled his forces and prepared 
to take possession of the country. 

It will be recollected that Robert, when he 
left Normandy in setting out on his pilgrimage, 
had appointed a nobleman named Alan to act 
as regent, or governor of the country, until he 
should return ; or, in case he should never re- 
turn, until William should become of age. Alan 
had a council of officers, called the council of 
regency, with whose aid he managed the ad- 
ministration of the government. This council, 
with Alan at their head, proclaimed young Will- 
iam duke, and immediately began to act in his 
name. When they found that the Earl of 
Arques was preparing to seize the government, 
they began to assemble their forces aLso, and 
thus both sides prepared for war. 

Before they actually commenced hostilities, 
however, the pilgrim knights w T ho had accom- 
panied Robert on his pilgrimage, and who had 
been journeying home slowly by themselves 
ever since their leader's death, arrived in Nor- 
mandv. These were chieftains and nobles of 

56 William the Conqueror. 

The pilgrim knights. They embrace William's cause. 

high rank and influence, and each of the con- 
tending parties were eager to have them join 
their side. Besides the actual addition of force 
w T hich these men could bring to the cause they 
should espouse, the moral support they would 
give to it w r as a very important consideration. 
Their having been on this long and dangerous 
pilgrimage invested them with a sort of ro- 
mantic and religious interest in the minds of 
all the people, who looked up to them, in con- 
sequence of it, with a sort of veneration and 
awe ; and then, as they had been selected by 
Robert to accompany him on his pilgrimage, 
and had gone on the long and dangerous jour- 
ney with him, continuing to attend upon him 
until he died, they w 7 ere naturally regarded as 
his most faithful and confidential friends. For 
these and similar reasons, it was obvious that 
the cause which they should espouse in the ap- 
proaching contest would gain a large accession 
of moral power by their adhesion. 

As soon as they arrived in Normandy, reject- 
ing all proposals from other quarters, they joined 
young William's cause with the utmost prompt- 
itude and decision. Alan received them at once 
into his councils. An assembly was convened, 
and the question was discussed whether Will- 

A.D.1035.] The Accession. 57 

Debates in the council on the propriety of William's return. 

iam should be sent for to come to Normandy. 
Some argued that he was yet a mere boy, in- 
capable of rendering them any real service in 
the impending contest, while he would be ex- 
posed, more perhaps than they themselves, to be 
taken captive or slain. They thought it best, 
therefore, that he should remain, for the pres- 
ent, in Paris, under the protection of the French 

Others, on the other hand, contended that 
the influence of William's presence, boy as he 
was, would animate and inspire all his follow- 
ers, and awaken every where, throughout the 
country, a warm interest in his cause ; that 
his very tenderness and helplessness would ap- 
peal strongly to every generous heart, and that 
his youthful accomplishments and personal 
charms would enlist thousands in his favor, who 
would forget, and perhaps abandon him, if he 
kept away. Besides, it was by no means cer- 
tain that he was so safe as some might suppose 
in King Henry's custody and power. King 
Henry might himself lay claims to the vacant 
duchy, with a view of bestowing it upon some 
favorite of his own, in which case he might con- 
fine young William in one of his castles, in an 
honorable, but still rigid and hopeless captivity, 

58 William the Conqueror. 

WDliam's return to Normandy. Its effects. 

or treacherously destroy his life by the secret 
administration of poison. 

These latter counsels prevailed. Alan and 
Ihe nobles who were with him sent an embas- 
sage to the court of King Henry to bring Will- 
iam home. Henry made objections and diffi- 
culties. This alarmed the nobles. They feared 
that it would prove true that Henry himself 
had designs on Normandy. They sent a new 
embassage, with demands more urgent than be- 
fore. Finally, after some time spent in nego- 
tiations and delays, King Henry concluded to 
yield, and William set out on his return. He 
was now about twelve or thirteen years old. 
His military tutor, Theroulde, accompanied 
him, and he was attended likewise by the em- 
bassadors whom Alan had sent for him, and by 
a strong escort for his protection by the way. 
He arrived in safety at Alan's head-quarters. 

William's presence in Normandy had the ef- 
fect which had been anticipated from it. It 
awakened every where a great deal of enthusi- 
asm in his favor. The soldiers were pleased to 
see how handsome their young commander was 
in form, and how finely he could ride. He 
was, in fact, a very superior equestrian for one 
so young. He was more fond, even, than other 

A.D.1036.] The Accession. 59 

William's accomplishments. Impression upon fhe army. 

boys of horses ; and as, of course, the most 
graceful and the fleetest horses which could be 
found were provided for him, and as Theroulde 
had given him the best and most complete in- 
struction, he made a fine display as he rode 
swiftly through the camp, followed by veteran 
nobles, splendidly dressed and mounted, and 
happy to be in his train, while his own counte- 
nance beamed with a radiance in which native 
intelligence and beauty were heightened by the 
animation and excitement of pride and pleas- 
ure. In respect to the command of the army, 
of course the real power remained in Alan's 
hands, but every thing was done in William's 
name ; and in respect to all external marks 
and symbols of sovereignty, the beautiful boy 
seemed to possess the supreme command ; and 
as the sentiment of loyalty is always the stron- 
gest when the object which calls for the exer- 
cise of it is most helpless or frail, Alan found 
his power very much increased when he had 
this beautiful boy to exhibit as the true and 
rightful heir, in whose name and for whose 
benefit all his power was held. 

Still, however, the country was very far from 
becoming settled. The Earl of Arques kept 
the field, and other claimants, too, strengthened 

60 William the Conqueror. 

Claimants in the field. Iron rule of the nobles. 

themselves in their various castles and towns, 
as if preparing to resist. In those days, every 
separate district of the country was almost a 
separate realm, governed by its own baron, 
who lived, with his retainers, within his own 
castle walls, and ruled the land around him 
with a rod of iron. These barons were engaged 
in perpetual quarrels among themselves, each 
plundering the dominions of the rest, or making 
hostile incursions into the territories of a neigh- 
bor to revenge some real or imaginary wrong. 
This turbulence and disorder prevailed every 
where throughout Normandy at the time of 
William's return. In the general confusion, 
William's government scarcely knew who were 
his friends or his enemies. At one time, when 
a deputation was sent to some of the barons in 
William's name, summoning them to come 
with their forces and join his standard, as they 
were in duty bound to do, they felt independ- 
ent enough to send back word to him that they 
had " too much to do in settling their own 
quarrels to be able to pay any attention to his. 1 ' 
In the course of a year or two, moreover, and 
while his own realm continued in this unsettled 
and distracted state, William became involved 
in what was almost a quarrel with King Henry 

A.D. 1039.] The Accession. 61 

Almost a quarrel. Interview between William and Henry. 

himself. When he was fifteen years old, which 
was two or three years after his return from 
Paris to Normandy, Henry sent directions to 
"William to come to a certain town, called Ev- 
reux, situated about half way between Falaise 
and Paris, and just within the confines of Nor- 
mandy,* to do homage to him there for his 
duchy. There was some doubt among Will- 
iam's counselors whether it w T ould be most pru- 
dent to obey or disobey this command. They 
finally concluded that it was best to obey. 
Grand preparations were accordingly made for 
the expedition ; and, when all was ready, the 
young duke was conducted in great state, and 
with much pomp and parade, to meet his sov- 

The interview between William and his sov- 
ereign, and the ceremonies connected with it, 
lasted some days. In the course of this time, 
William remained at Evreux, and was, in some 
sense, of course, in Henry's power. William, 
having been so long in Henry's court as a mere 
boy, accustomed all the time to look up to and 
obey Henry as a father, regarded him some- 
what in that light now, and approached him 
with great deference and respect. Henry re- 
* See map at the commencement of chapter ix. 

62 William the Conqueror. 

Henry's demand. William's indignation. 

ceived him in a somewhat haughty and impe- 
rious manner, as if he considered him still un- 
der the same subjection as heretofore. 

"William had a fortress or castle on the fron- 
tiers of his dukedom, toward Henry's domin- 
ions. The name of the castle was Tellieres, 
and the governor of it was a faithful old soldier 
named De Crespin. William's father, Robert, 
had intrusted De Crespin with the command of 
the castle, and given him a garrison to defend 
it. Henry now began to make complaint to 
William in respect to this castle. The garri- 
son, he said, w r ere continually making incur- 
sions into his dominions. William replied that 
he was very sorry that there was cause for such 
a complaint. He would inquire into it, and if 
the fact were really so, he would have the evil 
immediately corrected. Henry replied that that 
was not sufficient. " You must deliver up the 
castle to me," he said, " to be destroyed." Will- 
iam was indignant at such a demand ; but he 
was so accustomed to obey implicitly whatever 
King Henry might require of him, that he sent 
the order to have the castle surrendered. 

When, however, the order came to De Cres- 
pin, the governor of the castle, he refused to 
obey it. The fortress, he said, had been com- 

A.D.1039.] The Accession 63 

Henry destroys one of William's castles. Difficulties which followed. 

mitted to his charge by Robert, duke of Nor- 
mandy, and he should not give it up to the pos- 
session of any foreign power. "When this an- 
swer was reported to William and his counsel- 
ors, it made them still more indignant than be- 
fore at the domineering tyranny of the com- 
mand, and more disposed than ever to refuse 
obedience to it. Still William was in a great 
measure in the monarch's power. On cool re- 
flection, they perceived that resistance would 
then be vain. New and more authoritative or- 
ders were accordingly issued for the surrender 
of the castle. De Crespin now obeyed. He 
gave up the keys and withdrew with his garri- 
son. William was then allowed to leave Evreux 
and return home, and soon afterward the castle 
was razed to the ground. 

This affair produced, of course, a great deal 
of animosity and irritation between the govern- 
ments of France and Normandy ; and where 
such a state of feeling exists between two pow- 
ers separated only by an imaginary line run- 
ning through a populous and fertile country, 
aggressions from one side and from the other 
are sure to follow. These are soon succeeded 
by acts of retaliation and revenge, leading, in 
the end, to an open and general war. It was 

64 William the Conqueror. 

War with Henry. William rescues Falaise. 

so now. Henry marched his armies into Nor- 
mandy, seized towns, destroyed castles, and, 
where he was resisted by the people, he laid 
waste the country with fire and sword. He 
finally laid siege to the very castle of Falaise. 

William and his government were for a time 
nearly overwhelmed with the tide of disaster 
and calamity. The tide turned, however, at 
length, and the fortune of war inclined in their 
favor. William rescued the town and castle of 
Falaise ; it was in a very remarkable manner, 
too, that this exploit was accomplished. The 
fortress was closely invested with Henry's for- 
ces, and was on the very eve of being surren- 
dered. The story is, that Henry had offered 
bribes to the governor of the castle to give it up 
to him, and that the governor had agreed to re- 
ceive them and to betray his trust. While he 
was preparing to do so, William arrived at the 
head of a resolute and determined band of Nor- 
mans. They came with so sudden an onset 
upon the army of besiegers as to break up their 
camp and force them to abandon the siege. 
The people of the town and the garrison of the 
castle were extremely rejoiced to be thus res- 
cued, and when they came to learn through 
whose instrumentality they had been saved, and 

A.D.1039.] The Accession. 65 

William received with accla mations. Punishment of the governor. 

saw the beautiful horseman whom they remem- 
bered as a gay and happy child playing about 
the precincts of the castle, they were perfectly 
intoxicated with delight. They filled the air 
with the wildest acclamations, and welcomed 
"William back to the home of his childhood with 
manifestations of the most extravagant joy. As 
to the traitorous governor, he was dealt with 
very leniently. Perhaps the general feeling of 
joy awakened emotions of leniency and forgive- 
ness in William's mind— or perhaps the proof 
against the betrayer was incomplete. They 
did not, therefore, take his life, which would 
have been justly forfeited, according to the mil- 
itary ideas of the times, if he had been really 
guilty. They deprived him of his command, 
confiscated his property, and let him go free. 

After this, William's forces continued for 
some time to make head successfully against 
those of the King of France ; but then, on the 
other hand, the danger from his uncle, the Earl 
of Arques, increased. The earl took advantage 
of the difficulty and danger in which William 
was involved in his contests with King Henry, 
and began to organize his forces again. He 
fortified himself in his castle at Arques,* and 

* See map, chapter ix. 


66 William the Conqueror. 

The Earl of Arques. Advance of Henry. 

was collecting a large force there. Arques was 
in the northeastern part of Normandy, near the 
sea, where the ruins of the ancient castle still 
remain. The earl huilt an almost impregnable 
tower for himself on the summit of the rock 
on which the castle stood, in a situation so in- 
accessible that he thought he could retreat to 
it in any emergency, with a few chosen follow- 
ers, and bid defiance to any assault. In and 
around this castle the earl had got quite a large 
army together. William advanced with his 
forces, and, encamping around them, shut them 
in. King Henry, who was then in a distant 
part of Normandy, began to put his army in 
motion to come to the rescue of Arques. 

Things being in this state, William left a 
strong body of men to continue the investment 
and siege of Arques, and went off himself, at 
the head of the remainder of his force, to inter- 
cept Henry on his advance. The result was a 
battle and a victory, gained under circum- 
stances so extraordinary, that William, young 
as he was, acquired by his exploits a brilliant 
and universal renown. 

It seems that Henry, in his progress to 
Arques, had to pass through a long and gloomy 
valley, which was bounded on either side by 

A.D.1039.] The Accession. 67 

A dangerous defile. Henry's order of march. 

precipitous and forest-covered hills. Through 
this dangerous defile the long train of Henry's 
army was advancing, arranged and marshaled 
in such an order as seemed to afford the great- 
est hope of security in case of an attack. First 
came the vanguard, a strong escort, formed of 
heavy bodies of soldiery, armed with battle- 
axes and pikes, and other similar weapons, the 
most efficient then known. Immediately after 
this vanguard came a long train of baggage, 
the tents, the provisions, the stores, and all the 
munitions of war. The baggage was followed 
by a great company of servants — the cooks, the 
carters, the laborers, the camp followers of every 
description — a throng of non-combatants, use- 
less, of course, in a battle, and a burden on a 
march, and yet the inseparable and indispensa- 
ble attendant of an army, whether at rest or in 
motion. After this throng came the main body 
of the army, with the king, escorted by his 
guard of honor, at the head of it. An active 
and efficient corps of lancers and men-at-arms 
brought up the rear. 

William conceived the design of drawing this 
cumbrous and unmanageable body into an am- 
buscade. . He selected, accordingly, the narrow- 
est and most dangerous part of the defile for the 

68 "William the Conqueror. 

"William's ambuscade. Its success. 

purpose, and stationed vast numbers of Norman 
soldiers, armed with javelins and arrows, upon 
the slopes of the hill on either side, concealing 
them all carefully among the thickets and rocks. 
He then marshaled the remainder of his forces 
in the valley, and sent them up the valley to 
meet Henry as he was descending. This "body 
of troops, which was to advance openly to meet 
the king, as if they constituted the whole of 
William's force, were to fight a pretended hat- 
tie with the vanguard, and then to retreat, in 
hopes to draw the whole train after them in a 
pursuit so eager as to throw them into confu- 
sion ; and then, when the column, thus disar- 
ranged, should reach the place of ambuscade, 
the Normans were to come down upon them 
suddenly from their hiding-places, and complete 
their discomfiture. 

The plan was well laid, and wisely and 
bravely executed ; and it was most triumphant- 
ly successful in its result. The vanguard of 
Henry's army were deceived by the pretended 
flight of the Norman detachment. They sup- 
posed, too, that it constituted the whole body 
of their enemies. They pressed forward, there- 
fore, with great exultation and eagerness to 
pursue them. News of the attack, and of the 

A.D.1040.] The Accession. 69 

Pretended flight of the Normans. Disarray of the French. 

apparent repulse with which the French sol- 
diers had met it, passed rapidly along the valley, 
producing every where the wildest excitement, 
and an eager desire to press forward to the 
scene of conflict. The whole valley was filled 
with shouts and outcries ; baggage was aban- 
doned, that those who had charge of it might 
hurry on ; men ran to and fro for tidings, or 
ascended eminences to try to see. Horsemen 
drove at foil speed from front to rear, and from 
rear on to the front again ; orders and counter 
orders were given, which nobody would under- 
stand or attend to in the general confusion and 
din. In fact, the universal attention seemed 
absorbed in one general and eager desire to 
press forward with headlong impetuosity to the 
scene of victory" and pursuit which they sup- 
posed was enacting in the van. 

The army pressed on in this confused and 
excited manner until they reached the place of 
ambuscade. They went on, too, through this 
narrow passage, as heedlessly as ever ; and, 
when the densest and most powerful portion of 
the column was crowding through, they were 
suddenly thunderstruck by the issuing of a 
thousand weapons from the heights and thick- 
ets above them on either hand — a dreadful 

70 William the Conqueror. 

Rout of the French. William's embasage to Henry. 

shower of arrows, javelins, and spears, which 
struck down hundreds in a moment, and over- 
whelmed the rest with astonishment and terror. 
As soon as this first discharge had teen effect- 
ed, the concealed enemy came pouring down 
the sides of the mountain, springing out from 
a thousand hiding-places, as if suddenly brought 
into being by some magic power. The discom- 
fiture of Henry's forces was complete and irre- 
mediable. The men fled every where in utter 
dismay, trampling upon and destroying one an- 
other, as they crowded back in terrified throngs 
to find some place of safety up the valley. 
There, after a day or two, Henry got together 
the scattered remains of his army, and estab- 
lished something like a camp. 

It is a curious illustration of the feudal feel- 
ings of those times in respect to the gradation 
of ranks, or else of the extraordinary modesty 
and good sense of William's character, that he 
assumed no airs of superiority over his sover- 
eign, and showed no signs of extravagant ela- 
tion after this battle. He sent a respectful em- 
bassage to Henry, recognizing his own acknowl- 
edged subjection to Henry as his sovereign, and 
imploring his protection ! He looked confident- 
ly to him, he said, for aid and support against 
his rebellious subjects. 

A.D.1040.] The Accession. 71 

The castle at Arques taken. William crowned at Falaise. 

Though he thus professed, however, to rely 
on Henry, he really trusted most, it seems, to 
his own right arm ; for, as soon as this battle 
was fairly over, and while the whole country 
was excited with the astonishing brilliancy of 
the exploit performed by so young a man, "Will- 
iam mounted his horse, and calling upon those 
to follow him who wished to do so, he rode at 
full speed, at the head of a small cavalcade, to 
the castle at Arques. His sudden appearance 
here, with the news of the victory, inspirited 
the besiegers to such a degree that the castle 
was soon taken. He allowed the rebel earl to 
escape, and thus, perhaps, all the more effectu- 
ally put an end to the rebellion. He was now 
in peaceable possession of his realm. 

He went in triumph to Falaise, where he was 
solemnly crowned with great ceremony and pa- 
rade, and all Normandy was filled with con- 
gratulations and rejoicings. 

72 William the Conqueror. 

A lapse of twenty years. Conspiracy of Guy of Burgundy. 

Chapter IV. 
William's Reign in Normandy. 

FROM the time of William's obtaining quiet 
possession of his realm to his invasion of 
England, a long period intervened. There was 
a lapse of more than twenty years. During this 
long interval, William governed his duchy, sup- 
pressed insurrections, huilt castles and towns, 
carried on wars, regulated civil institutions, and, 
in fact, exercised, in a very energetic and suc- 
cessful manner, all the functions of government 
— his life being diversified all the time "by the 
usual incidents which mark the career of a great 
military ruler of an independent realm in the 
Middle Ages. We will give in this chapter a 
description of some of these incidents. 

On one occasion a conspiracy was formed to 
take his life by secret assassination. A great 
chieftain, named Guy of Burgundy, William's 
uncle, was the leader of it, and a half-witted 
man, named Gralet, who occupied the place of 
jester or fool in William's court, was the means 
of discovering and exposing it. These jesters, 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 73 

The fool or jester. Meetings of the conspirators. 

of whom there was always one or more in the 
retinue of every great prince in those days, were 
either very eccentric or very foolish, or half-in- 
sane men, who were dressed fantastically, in 
gaudy colors and with cap and bells, and were 
kept to make amusement for the court. The 
name of Willidm's jester was G-alet. 

G-uy of Burgundy and his fellow-conspirators 
occupied certain gloomy castles, built in remote 
and lonely situations on the confines of Nor- 
mandy. Here they were accustomed to assem- 
ble for the purpose of concocting their plans, 
and gathering their men and their resources — > 
doing every thing in the most cunning and se- 
cret manner. Before then scheme was fully 
ripe for execution, it happened that William 
made a hunting excursion into the neighborhood 
of their territory with a small band of followers 
— such as would be naturally got together on 
such a party of pleasure. Galet, the fool, was 
amonsr them. 


As soon as G-uy and his fellow-conspirators 
learned that "William was so near, they determ- 
ined to precipitate the execution of their plan, 
and waylay and assassinate him on his return. 

They accordingly left their secret and lonely 
rendezvous among the mountains one by one, 

74 "William the Conqueror. 

Final plans of the conspirators. Discovered by Galet. 

in order to avoid attracting observation, and 
went to a town called Bayeux, through which 
they supposed that William would have to pass 
on his return. Here they held secret consulta- 
tions, and formed their final plans. They sent 
out a part of their number, in small bands, into 
the region of country which William would 
have to cross, to occupy the various roads and 
passes, and thus to cut off all possibility of his 
escape. They made all these arrangements in 
the most secret and cautious manner, and be- 
gan to think that they were sure of their prey. 
It happened, however, that some of William's 
attendants, with Gralet the fool among them, 
had preceded William on his return, and had 
reached Bayeux # at the time when the con- 
spirators arrived there. The townspeople did 
not observe the coming of the conspirators par- 
ticularly, as many horsemen and soldiers were 
coming and going at that time, and they had 
no means of distinguishing the duke's friends 
from his enemies ; but Galet, as he sauntered 
about the town, noticed that there were many 
soldiers and knights to be seen who were not 
of his master's party. This attracted his atten- 
tion ; he began to watch the motions of these 

* See map, chapter ix. 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 75 

Galet sets out in search of William. He finds him asleep. 

strangers, and to listen, without seeming to 
listen, in order to catch the words they spoke 
to each other as they talked in groups or passed 
one another in the streets. He was soon satis- 
fied that some mischief was intended. He im- 
mediately threw aside his cap and hells, and his 
fantastic dress, and, taking a staff in his hand, 
he set off on foot to go hack as fast as possible 
in search of the duke, and give him the alarm. 
He found the duke at a village caUed Yalonges. 
He arrived there at night. He pressed forward 
hastily into his master's chamber, half forcing 
his way through the attendants, who, accus- 
tomed to the liberties which such a personage 
as he was accustomed to take on all occasions, 
made only a feehle resistance to his wishes. 
He found the duke asleep, and he called upon 
him with a very earnest voice to awake and 
arise immediately, for his life was in danger. 

William was at first inclined to dishelieve 
the story which Gralet told him, and to think 
that there was no cause to fear. He was, 
however, soon convinced that Gralet was right, 
and that there was reason for alarm. He arose 
and dressed himself hastily ; and, inasmuch as 
a monarch, in the first moments of the discov- 
ery of a treasonable plot, knows not whom to 

76 William the Conqueror. 

William's flight. His narrow escape. 

trust, William wisely concluded not to trust 
any "body. He went himself to the stables, 
saddled his horse with his own hand, mounted 
him, and rode away. He had a very narrow 
escape ; for, at the same time, while Galet was 
hastening to Yalonges to give his master warn- 
ing of his danger, the conspirators had been ad- 
vancing to the same place, and had completely 
surrounded it ; and they were on the eve of 
making an attack upon William's quarters at 
the very hour when he set out upon his flight. 
William had accordingly proceeded only a lit- 
tle way on his route before he heard the foot- 
steps of galloping horses, and the clanking of 
arms, on the road behind him. It was a troop 
of the conspirators coming, who, finding that 
William had fled, had set off immediately in 
pursuit. William rode hastily into a wood, 
and let them go by. 

He remained for some time in his hiding- 
place, and then cautiously emerged from it to 
continue his way. He did not dare to keep 
the public road, although it was night, but took 
a wild and circuitous route, in lanes and by- 
paths, which conducted him, at length, to the 
vicinity of the sea. Here, about day -break, he 
w T as passing a mansion, supposing that no one 

A.D. 1040-60.] Re 

[gn in Normandy. 79 

William is recognized. 

Hubert's castle. 

would observe him at so early an hour, when, 
suddenly, he perceived a man sitting at the 
gate, armed and equipped, and in an attitude 
of waiting. He was waiting for his horse. He 
was a nobleman named Hubert. He recognized 
"William immediately as the duke, and accosted 
him in a tone of astonishment, saying, " Why, 
my lord duke, is it possible that this is you?" 
He was amazed to see the ruler of the realm 
out at such an hour, in such a condition, alone, 
exhausted, his dress all in disorder from the 
haste with which he had put it on, and his 
steed breathless and covered with dust, and 
ready, apparently, to drop down with fatigue 
and exhaustion. 

William, finding that he was recognized, re- 
lated his story. It appeared, in the end, that 
Hubert held his own castle and village as a 
tenant of one of the principal conspirators, and 
was bound, according to the feudal ideas of the 
time, to espouse his landlord's cause. He told 
William, however, that he had nothing to fear. 
" I will defend your life," said he, " as if it were 
my own." So saying, he called his three sons, 
who were all athletic and courageous young 
men, and commanded them to mount their hor- 
ses and get ready for a march. He took Will- 

80 "William the Conqueror. 

Hubert's sons. Pursuit of the conspirators. 

iam into his castle, and gave him the food and 
refreshment that he needed. Then he brought 
him again into the court-yard of the house, 
where William found the three young horsemen 
mounted and ready, and a strong and fleet steed 
prepared for himself. He mounted. Hubert 
commanded his sons to conduct the prince with 
all dispatch to Falaise, without traveling at all 
upon the highway or entering a town. They 
took, accordingly, a straight course across the 
country — which was probably then, as now, 
nearly destitute of inclosures — and conducted 
William safely to his castle at Falaise. 

In the course of the morning, William's pur- 
suers came to Hubert's castle, and asked if the 
duke had been seen going by. Hubert replied 
in the affirmative, and he mounted his steed 
with great readiness to go and show them the 
road which the fugitive had taken. He urged 
them to ride hard, in hopes of soon overtaking 
the object of their pursuit. They drove on, ac- 
cordingly, with great impetuosity and ardor, 
under Hubert's guidance ; but, as he had pur- 
posely taken a wrong road, he was only leading 
them further and further astray. Finally they 
gave up the chase, and Hubert returned with 
the disappointed pursuers to his fortress, Will- 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 81 

Defeat of the rebels. , Their punishment. 

iam having in the mean time arrived safely at 

The conspirators now found that it was use- 
less any longer to attempt to conceal their plans. 
In fact, they were already all exposed, and they 
knew that William would immediately summon 
his troops and come out to seize them. They 
must, therefore, either fly from the country or 
attempt an open rebellion. They decided on the 
latter' — the result was a civil war. In the end, 
William was victorious. He took a large num- 
ber of the rebels prisoners, and he adopted the 
following very singular plan for inflicting a 
suitable punishment upon them, and at the 
same time erecting a permanent monument of 
his victory. He laid out a public road across 
the country, on the line over which he had been 
conducted by the sons of Hubert, and compelled 
the rebels to make it. A great part of this 
country was low and marshy, and had been for 
this reason avoided by the public road, which 
took a circuitous course around it. The rebel 
prisoners were now, however, set at work to 
raise a terrace or embankment, on a line sur- 
veyed by William's engineers, which followed 
almost exactly the course of his retreat. The 
high road was then laid out upon tins terrace, 

82 William the Conqueror. 

Curious incident. Coats of armor. 

and it became immediately a public thorough- 
fare of great importance. It continued for sev- 
eral centuries one of the most frequented high- 
ways in the realm, and was known by the name 
of the Raised Road — Terre levee — throughout 
the kingdom. In fact, the remains of it, ap- 
pearing like the ruins of an ancient rail-road 
embankment, exist to the present day. 

In the course of the war with these rebels a 
curious incident occurred at one of the battles, 
or, rather, is said to have occurred, by the histo- 
rians who tell the story, which, if true, illus- 
trates very strikingly the romantic and chival- 
rous ideas of the times. Just as the battle was 
commencing, "William perceived a strong and 
finely-equipped body of horsemen preparing to 
charge upon the very spot where he himself, 
surrounded by his officers, was standing. Now 
the armor worn by knights in battle in those 
times covered and concealed the figure and the 
face so fully, that it would have been impossi- 
ble even for acquaintances and friends to recog- 
nize each other, were it not that the knights 
were all accustomed to wear certain devices 
upon some part of their armor — painted, for in- 
stance, upon their shields, or embroidered on 
little banners which they bore — by means of 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 83 

Origin of heraldry. Rollo de Tesson. 

which thpy might be known. These devices 
"became at length hereditary in the great fami- 
lies — sons being proud to wear, themselves, the 
emblems to which the deeds of their fathers had 
imparted a trace of glory and renown. The de- 
vices of different chieftains were combined, 
sometimes, in cases of intermarriage, or were 
modified in various ways ; and with these minor 
changes they would descend from generation to 
generation as the family coat of arms. And 
this was the origin of heraldry. 

Now the body of horsemen that were advanc- 
ing to the charge, as above described, had each 
of them his device upon a little flag or banner 
attached to their lances. As they were advanc- 
ing, William scrutinized them closely, and pres- 
ently recognized in their leader a man who had 
formerly been upon his side. His name was 
Rollo de Tesson. He was one of those who had 
sworn fealty to him at the time when his father 
Robert presented him to the council, when set- 
ting out upon his pilgrimage. William accord- 
ingly exclaimed, with a loud voice, " Why, these 
are my friends !" The officers and the soldiers 
of the body-guard who were with him, taking 
up the cry, shouted " Friends ! friends /" Rol- 
lo de Tesson and the other knights, who were 

84 William the Conqueror. 

Keeping both oaths. Changing sides. 

slowly coming up, preparing to charge upon 
William's party, surprised at being thus accost- 
ed, paused in their advance, and finally halted. 
Eollo said to the other knights, who gathered 
around him, " I was his friend. I gave my oath 
to his father that I would stand by him and de- 
fend him with my life ; and now I have this 
morning sworn to the Count of Cotentin"' — the 
Count of Cotentin was the leader of the rebell- 
ion — " that I would seek out William on the 
battle-field, and be the first to give him a blow. 
I know not what to do." " Keep both oaths," 
replied one of his companions. " Gro and strike 
him a gentle blow, and then defend him with 
your life." The whole troop seconded this pro- 
posal by acclamation. Rollo advanced, followed 
by the other knights, with gestures and shouts 
denoting that they were friends. He rode up 
to William, told him that he had that morning 
sworn to strike him, and then dealt him a pre- 
tended blow upon his shoulder ; but as both the 
shoulder and the hand which struck it were 
armed with steel, the clanking sound was all 
the effect that was produced. Rollo and his 
troop — their sworn obligation to the Count of 
Cotentin being thus fulfilled — turned now into 
the ranks of William's soldiery, and fought val- 
iantly all day upon his side. 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 85 

Character of the ancient chieftains. Their love of war. 

Although William was generally victorious 
in the battles that he fought, and succeeded in 
putting down one rebellion after another with 
promptness and decision, still, new rebellions 
and new wars were constantly breaking out, 
which kept his dominions in a continual state 
of commotion. In fact, the chieftains, the no- 
bles, and the knights, constituting the only 
classes of society that exercised any influence, 
or were regarded with any respect in those 
days, were never contented except when active- 
ly employed in military campaigns. The ex- 
citements and the glory of war were the only 
excitements and glory that they understood, or 
had the means of enjoying. Their dwellings 
were great fortresses, built on the summits of 
the rocks, which, however picturesque and 
beautiful they appear as ruins now, were very 
gloomy and desolate as residences then. They 
were attractive enough when their inmates were 
flying to them for refuge from an enemy, or 
were employed within the walls in concentrat- 
ing their forces and brightening up their arms 
for some new expedition for vengeance or plun- 
der, but they were lonely and lifeless scenes of 
restlessness and discontent in times of quietness 
and peace. 

86 William the Conqueror. 

Ancient castles. Their interior construction. 

It is difficult for us, at this day, to conceive 
how destitute of all the ordinary means of com- 
fort and enjoyment, in comparison with a mod- 
ern dwelling, the ancient feudal castles must 
have been. They were placed in situations as 
nearly inaccessible as possible, and the natural 
impediments of approach were increased by 
walls, and gates, and ditches, and draw-bridges. 
The door of access was often a window in the 
wall, ten or fifteen feet from the ground, to 
which the inmates or their friends mounted by 
a ladder. The floors were of stone, the walls 
were naked, the ceiling was a rudely-construct- 
ed series of arches. The apartments, too, were 
ordinarily small, and were arranged one above 
another, in the successive stories of a tower. 
Nor could these cell-like chambers be enlivened 
by the wide and cheerful windows of modern 
times, which not only admit the light to ani- 
mate the scene within, but also afford to the 
spectator there, wide-spread, and sometimes en- 
chanting views of the surrounding country. 
The castle windows of ancient days were, on 
the contrary, narrow loop-holes, each at the 
bottom of a deep recess in the thick wall. If 
they had been made wide they would have ad- 
mitted too easily the arrows and javelins of be- 

A.D. 1040-60.] R E I G N I N N O R M A N D Y. 07 

Nothing respectable for the nobility but war. 

siegers, as well as the wind and rain of wintery 
storms. There were no hooks in these desolate 
dwellings, no furniture hut armor, no pleasures 
hut drinking and carousals. 

Nor could these noble and valiant knights 
and harons occupy themselves in any useful 
employment. There was nothing which it was 
respectable for them to do hut to fight. They 
looked down with contempt upon all the indus- 
trial pursuits of life. The cultivation of farms, 
the rearing of flocks and herds, arts, manufac- 
tures, and commerce — every thing of this sort, 
by which man can benefit his fellow-man, was 
entirely beneath them. In fact, their descend- 
ants to the present day, even in England, enter- 
tain the same ideas. Their younger sons can 
enter the army or the navy, and spend their 
lives in killing and destroying, or in awaiting, 
in idleness, dissipation, and vice, for orders to 
kill and destroy, without dishonor ; but to en- 
gage in any way in those vast and magnificent 
operations of peaceful industry, on which the 
true greatness and glory of England depend, 
would be perpetual and irretrievable disgrace. 
A young nobleman can serve, in the most sub- 
ordinate official capacity, on board a man-of- 
war, and take pay for it, without degradation ; 

88 William the Conqueror. 

Rebellions. Insulting allusions to William's birth. 

but to build a man-of-war itself and take pay 
for it, would be to compel his whole class to dis- 
own him. 

It was in consequence of this state of feeling 
among the knights and barons of William's day 
that peace was always tedious and irksome to 
them, and they were never contented except 
when engaged in battles and campaigns. It 
was this feeling, probably, quite as much as 
any settled hostility to William's right to reign, 
that made his barons so eager to engage in in- 
surrections and rebellions. There was, how- 
ever, after all, a real and deep-seated opposition 
to William's right of succession, founded in the 
ideas of the day. They could not well endure 
that one of so humble and even ignominious 
birth, on the mother's side, should be the heir 
of so illustrious a line as the great dukes of 
Normandy. William's enemies were accus- 
tomed to designate him by opprobrious epithets, 
derived from the circumstances of his birth. 
Though he was patient and enduring, and often 
very generous in forgiving other injuries, these 
insults to the memory of his mother always 
stung him very deeply, and awakened the 
strongest emotions of resentment. One in- 
stance of this was so conspicuous that it is re- 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 89 

The ambuscade. Its failure. 

corded in almost all the histories of William 
that have been written. 

It was in the midst of one of the wars in 
which he was involved, that he was advancing 
across the country to the attack of a strong 
castle, which, in addition to the natural strength 
of its walls and fortifications, was defended by 
a numerous and powerful garrison. So con- 
fident, in fact, were the garrison in their num- 
bers and power, that when they heard that 
William was advancing to attack them, they 
sent out a detachment to meet him. This de- 
tachment, however, were not intending to give 
him open battle. Their plan was to lay in 
ambuscade, and attack William's troops when 
they came to the spot, and while they were un- 
aware of the vicinity of an enemy, and off their 

William, however, they found, was not off his 
guard. He attacked the ambuscade with so 
much vigor as to put the whole force immedi- 
ately to flight. Of course the fugitives direct- 
ed their steps toward the castle. William and 
his soldiers followed them in headlong pursuit. 
The end was, that the detachment from the gar- 
rison had scarcely time, after making good their 
own entrance, to raise the draw-bridges and se- 

90 "William the Conqueror. 

Insults of the garrison. Indignation of William. 

cure the gates, so as to keep their pursuers from 
entering too. They did, however, succeed in 
doing this, and William, establishing his troops 
about the castle, opened his lines and com- 
menced a regular siege. 

The garrison were very naturally vexed and 
irritated at the bad success of their intended 
stratagem. To have the ambuscade not only 
fail of its object, but to have also the men that 
formed it driven thus ignominiously in, and so 
narrowly escaping, also, the danger of letting in 
the whole troop of their enemies after them, 
w T as a great disgrace. To retaliate upon "Will- 
iam, and to throw back upon him the feelings 
of mortification and chagrin which they felt 
themselves, they mounted the walls and tow T ers, 
and shouted out all sorts of reproaches and in- 
sults. Finally, when they found that they 
could not make mere words sufficiently sting- 
ing, they went and procured skins and hides, 
and aprons of leather, and every thing else that 
they could find that was connected with the 
trade of a tanner, and shook them at the troops 
of their assailants from the towers and walls, 
with shouts of merriment and derision. 

William was desperately enraged at these in- 
sults. He organized an assaulting party, and 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 91 

William's campaign in France. His popularity. 

by means of the great exertions which the ex- 
asperation of his men stimulated them to make, 
he carried some of the outworks, and took a 
number of prisoners. These prisoners he cut 
to pieces, and then caused their bloody and 
mangled limbs and members to be thrown, by 
great slings, over the castle walls. 

At one time during the period which is in- 
cluded within the limits of this chapter, and in 
the course of one of those intervals of peace and 
quietness within his own dominions which Will- 
iam sometimes enjoyed, the King of France be- 
came involved in a war with one of his own re- 
bellious subjects, and William went, with an 
army of Normans, to render him aid. King 
Henry was at first highly gratified at this 
prompt and effectual succor, but he soon after- 
ward began to feel jealous of the universal pop- 
ularity and renown which the young duke be- 
gan soon to acquire. William was at that time 
only about twenty-four years old, but he took 
the direction of every thing — moved to and fro 
with the utmost celerity — planned the cam- 
paigns — directed the sieges, and by his personal 
accomplishments and his bravery, he won all 
hearts, and w r as the subject of every body's 
praises. King Henry found himself supplant- 

92 William the Conqueror. 

William's prowess. True nature of courage. 

ed, in some measure, in the regard and honora- 
ble consideration of his subjects, and he began 
to feel very envious and jealous of his rival. 

Sometimes particular incidents would occur, 
in which William's feats of prowess or dex- 
terity would so excite the admiration of the 
army that he would be overwhelmed with ac- 
clamations and applause. These were gener- 
ally exploits of combat on the field, or of escape 
from pursuers when outnumbered, in which good 
fortune had often, perhaps, quite as much to 
do in securing the result as strength or cour- 
age. But in those days a soldier's good luck 
was perhaps as much the subject of applause 
as his muscular force or his bravery ; and, in 
fact, it was as deservedly so; for the strength 
of arm, and the coolness, or, rather, the ferocity 
of courage, which make a good combatant in 
personal contests on a battle-field, are qualities 
of brutes rather than of men. We feel a spe- 
cies of respect for them in the lion or tiger, but 
they deserve only execration when exercised in 
the wantonness of hatred and revenge by man 
against his brother man. 

One of the instances of William's extraordi- 
nary success was the following. He was re- 
connoitering the enemy on one occasion, ac- 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 93 

An ambuscade. William's bravery. 

companied only by four or five knights, who 
acted as his attendants and body-guard. The 
party were at a distance from the camp of the 
enemy, and supposed they were not observed. 
They were observed, however, and immediately 
a party of twelve chosen horsemen was formed, 
and ordered to ride out and surprise them. This 
detachment concealed themselves in an ambus- 
cade, at a place where the reconnoitering party 
must pass, and when the proper moment ar- 
rived, they burst out suddenly upon them and 
summoned them to surrender. Twelve against 
six seemed to render both flight and resistance 
equally vain. William, however, advanced im- 
mediately to the attack of the ambuscaders. He 
poised his long lance, and, riding on with it at 
full speed, he unhorsed and killed the foremost 
of them at a blow. Then, just drawing back 
his weapon to gather strength for another blow, 
he killed the second of his enemies in the same 
manner. His followers were so much animated 
at this successful onset, that they advanced very 
resolutely to the combat. In the mean time, 
the shouts carried the alarm to William's camp, 
and a strong party set off to rescue William 
and his companions. The others then turned 
to ^ly, while William followed them so eagerly 

94 "William the Conqueror. 

William's victory. Applause of the French army. 

and closely, that he and they who were with 
him overtook and disabled seven of them, and 
made them prisoners. The rest escaped. Will- 
iam and his party then turned and "began to 
proceed toward their own camp, conveying their 
prisoners in their train. 

They were met by King Henry himself at 
the head of a detachment of three hundred men, 
who, not knowing how much necessity there 
might be for efficient aid, were hastening to 
the scene of action. The sight of William 
coming home victorious, and the tales told by 
his companions of the invincible strength and 
daring which he had displayed in the sudden 
danger, aw T akened a universal enthusiasm, and 
the plaudits and encomiums with which the 
whole camp resounded w r ere doubtless as de- 
licious and intoxicating to him as they were 
bitter to the king. 

It was by such deeds, and by such personal 
and mental characteristics as these, that Will- 
iam, notwithstanding the untoward influences 
of his birth, fought his w T ay, during the twenty 
years of which we have been speaking, into 
general favor, and established a universal re- 
nown. He completely organized and arranged 
the internal affairs of his own kingdom, and es- 

A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 95 

William firmly seated on his throne. His new projects. 

tablished himself firmly upon the ducal throne. 
His mind had become mature, his resources 
were well developed, and his soul, always am- 
bitious and aspiring, began to reach forward to 
the grasping of some grander objects of pursuit, 
and to the entering upon some wider field of 
action than his duchy of Normandy could afford. 
During this interval, however, he was married ; 
and, as the circumstances of his marriage were 
somewhat extraordinary, we must make that 
event the subject of a separate chapter. 

96 William the Conqueror. 

Political importance of a royal marriage. 

Chapter Y. 
The Mar riage. 

ONE of the most important points which an 
hereditary potentate has to attend to, in 
completing his political arrangements, is the 
question of his marriage. Until he has a fami- 
ly and an heir, men's minds are unsettled in 
respect to the succession, and the various rival 
candidates and claimants to the throne are per- 
petually plotting and intriguing to put them- 
selves into a position to spring at once into his 
place if sickness, or a battle, or any sudden ac- 
cident should take him away. This evil was 
more formidable than usual in the case of Will- 
iam, for the men who were prepared to claim 
his place when he was dead were all secretly 
or openly maintaining that their right to it was 
superior to his while he was living. This gave 
a double intensity to the excitement with which 
the public was perpetually agitated in respect 
to the crown, and kept the minds of the ambi- 
tious and the aspiring, throughout William's 
dominions, in a continual fever. It was ob- 

A.D.1045.] The Marriage. 97 

William's views in regard to his marriage. His choice. 

vious that a great part of the cause of this rest- 
less looking for change and consequent planning 
to promote it would be removed if William had 
a son. 

It became, therefore, an important matter of 
state policy that the duke should be married. 
In fact, the barons and military chieftains who 
were friendly to him urged this measure upon 
him, on account of the great effect which they 
perceived it would have in settling the minds 
of the people of the country and consolidating 
his power. William accordingly began to look 
around for a wife. It appeared, however, in 
the end, that, though policy was the main con- 
sideration which first led him to contemplate 
marriage, love very probably exercised an im- 
portant influence in determining his choice of 
the lady ; at all events, the object of his choice 
was an object worthy of love. She was one of 
the most beautiful and accomplished princesses 
in Europe. 

She was the daughter of a great potentate 
who ruled over the country of Flanders. Flan- 
ders lies upon the coast, east of Normandy, be- 
yond the frontiers of France, and on the south- 
ern shore of the German Ocean. Her father's 
title was the Earl of Flanders. He governed 

98 William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's genealogy. Her relationship to William. 

his dominions, however, like a sovereign, and 
was at the head of a very effective military pow r - 
er. His family, too, occupied a very high rank, 
and enjoyed great consideration among the other 
princes and potentates of Europe. It had in- 
termarried with the royal family of England, 
so that Matilda, the daughter of the earl, whom 
William was disposed to make his bride, was 
found, by the genealogists, who took great in- 
terest in those days in tracing such connections, 
to have descended in a direct line from the great 
English king, Alfred himself. 

This relationship, by making Matilda's birth 
the more illustrious, operated strongly in favor 
of the match, as a great part of the motive 
which William had in view, in his intended 
marriage, w^as to aggrandize and strengthen 
his own position, by the connection which he 
was about to form. There was, however, an- 
other consanguinity in the case which had a 
contrary tendency. Matilda's father had been 
connected with the Norman as well as with 
the English line, and Matilda and William w r ere 
in some remote sense cousins. This circum- 
stance led, in the sequel, as will presently be 
seen, to serious difficulty and trouble. 

Matilda was seven years younger than Will- 

A.D. 1045.] The Marriage. 99 

Matilda's accomplishments. Her embroidery. 

iam. She was brought up in her father's court, 
and famed far and wide for her beauty and ac- 
complishments. The accomplishments in which 
ladies of high rank sought to distinguish them- 
selves hi those days were two, music and em- 
broidery. The embroidery of tapestry was the 
great attainment, and in this art the young 
Matilda acquired great skill. The tapestry 
which was made in the Middle Ages was used 
to hang against the walls of some of the more 
ornamented rooms in royal palaces and castles, 
to hide the naked surface of the stones of which 
the building was constructed. The cloths thus 
suspended were at first plain, afterward they 
began to be ornamented with embroidered bor- 
ders or other decorations, and at length ladies 
learned to employ their own leisure hours, and 
beguile the tedium of the long confinement 
which many of them had to endure within their 
castles, in embroidering various devices and de- 
signs on the hangin2"s intended for their own 
chambers, or to execute such work as presents 
for their friends. Matilda's industry and skill 
in this kind of work were celebrated far and 

The accomplishments which ladies take great 
pains to acquire in their early years are some- 

100 William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's industry. The Bayeux tapestry. 

times, it is said, laid almost entirely aside after 
their marriage ; not necessarily because they 
are then less desirous to please, but sometimes 
from the abundance of domestic duty, which al- 
lows them little time, and sometimes from the 
pressure of their burdens of care or sorrow, 
which leave them no heart for the occupations 
of amusement or gayety. It seems not to have 
been so in Matilda's case, however. She re- 
sumed her needle often during the years of her 
wedded life, and after William had accomplish- 
ed his conquest of England, she worked upon a 
long linen web, with immense labor, a series of 
designs illustrating the various events and inci- 
dents of his campaign, and the work has been 
preserved to the present day. 

At least there is such a web now existing in 
the ancient town of Bayeux, in Normandy, 
which has been there from a period beyond the 
memory of men, and which tradition says was 
worked by Matilda. It would seem, however, 
that if she did it at all, she must have done it 
" as Solomon built the temple — with a great 
deal of help ;" for this famous piece of embroid- 
ery, which has been celebrated among all the 
historians and scholars of the world for several 
hundred years by the name of the Bayeux Tap- 

A.D.1045.] The Marriage. 101 

The designs. Uncoutfi drawing. Preservation. 

estry, is over four hundred feet long, and nearly 
two feet wide. The web is of linen, while the 
embroidery is of woolen. It was all obviously 
executed with the needle, and was worked with 
infinite labor and care. The woolen thread 
which was used was of various colors, suited 
to represent the different objects in the design, 
though these colors are, of course, now much 
tarnished and faded. 

The designs themselves are very simple and 
even rude, evincing very little knowledge of the 
principles of modern art. The specimens on 
the following page, of engravings made from 
them, will give some idea of the childish style 
of delineation which characterizes all Matilda's 
designs. Childish, however, as such a style of 
drawing would be considered now, it seems to 
have been, in Matilda's days, very much prais- 
ed and admired. 

We often have occasion to observe, in watch- 
ing the course of human affairs, the frailty and 
transitoriness of things apparently most durable 
and strong. In the case of this embroidery, on 
the contrary, we are struck with the durability 
and permanence of what would seem to be most 
frail and fleeting. William's conquest of En- 
gland took place in 1066. This piece of tapes- 

102 William the Conqueror. 

Specimens of the designs of the Bayeux tapestry. 

A.D. 1045-52.] The Marriage. 103 

Elements of decay. Great age of the Eayeux tapestry. 

try, therefore, if Matilda really worked it, is 
about eight hundred years old. And when we 
consider how delicate, slender, and frail is the 
fibre of a linen thread, and that the various ele- 
ments of decay, always busy in the work of cor- 
rupting and destroying the works of man, have 
proved themselves powerful enough to waste 
away and crumble into ruin the proudest struc- 
tures which he has ever attempted to rear, Ave 
are amazed that these slender filaments have 
been able to resist their action so long. The 
Bayeux tapestry has lasted nearly a thousand 
years. It will probably last for a thousand 
years to come. So that the vast and resistless 
power, which destroyed Babylon and Troy, and 
is making visible progress in the work of de- 
stroying .the Pyramids, is foiled by the durabil- 
ity of a piece of needle-work, executed by the 
frail and delicate fingers of a woman. 

We may have occasion to advert to the Ba- 
yeux tapestry again, when we come to narrate 
the exploits which it was the particular object 
of this historical embroidery to illustrate and 
adorn. In the mean time, we return to our story. 

The matrimonial negotiations of princes and 
princesses are always conducted in a formal 
and ceremonious manner, and through the hi- 

104 William the Conqueror. 

Marriage negotiations. Matilda's objections. 

tervention of legates, embassadors, and commis- 
sioners without number, who are, of course, in- 
terested in protracting the proceedings, so as to 
prolong, as much as possible, their own diplo- 
matic importance and power. Besides these ac- 
cidental and temporary difficulties, it soon ap- 
peared that there were, in this case, some real 
and very formidable obstacles, which threaten- 
ed for a time entirely to frustrate the scheme. 

Among these difficulties there was one which 
was not usually, in such cases, considered of 
much importance, but which, in this instance, 
seemed for a long time to put an effectual bar 
to William's wishes, and that was the aversion 
which the young princess herself felt for the 
match. She could have, one would suppose, 
no personal feeling of repugnance against Will- 
iam, for he was a tall and handsome cavalier, 
highly graceful and accomplished, and renown- 
ed for his bravery and success in war. He was, 
in every respect, such a personage as would be 
most likely to captivate the imagination of a 
maiden princess in those warlike times. Ma- 
tilda, however, made objections to his birth. 
She could not consider him as the legitimate 
descendant and heir of the dukes of Normandy. 
It is true, he was then in possession of the 

A.D. 1045-52.] The Marriage. 105 

Matilda's refusal. Her attachment to Brihtric. 

throne, but he was regarded by a large portion 
of the most powerful chieftains in his realm as 
a usurper. He was liable, at any time, on 
some sudden change of fortune, to be expelled 
from his dominions. His position, in a word, 
though for the time being very exalted, was too 
precarious and unstable, and his personal claims 
to high social rank were too equivocal, to justi- 
fy her trusting her destiny in his hands. In a 
word, Matilda's answer to William's proposals 
was an absolute refusal to become his wife. 

These ostensible grounds, however, on which 
Matilda based her refusal, plausible as they 
were, were not the real and true ones. The 
secret motive was another attachment which 
she had formed. There had been sent to her 
father's court in Flanders, from the English 
king, a young Saxon embassador, whose name 
was Brihtric. Brihtric remained some little 
time at the court in Flanders, and Matilda, 
who saw him often at the various entertain- 
ments, celebrations, and parties of pleasure 
which were arranged for his amusement, con- 
ceived a strong attachment to him. He was 
of a very fair complexion, and his features were 
expressive and beautiful. Fie was a noble of 
high position in England, though, of course, his 

106 William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's attachment not reciprocated. Her thirst for revenge. 

rank was inferior to that of Matilda. As it 
would have been deemed hardly proper for him, 
under the circumstances of the case, to have 
aspired to the princess's hand, on account of 
the superiority of her social position, Matilda 
felt that it was her duty to make known her 
sentiments to him, and thus to open the way. 
She did so; but she found, unhappy maiden, 
that Brihtric did not feel, himself, the love 
which he had inspired in her, and all the efforts 
and arts to which she was impelled by the in- 
stinct of affection proved wholly unavailing to 
call it forth. Brihtric, after fulfilling the ob- 
ject of his mission, took leave of Matilda coldly, 
while her heart was almost breaking, and went 

As the sweetest wine transforms itself into 
the sharpest vinegar, so the warmest and most 
ardent love turns, when it turns at all, to the 
most bitter and envenomed hate. Love gave 
place soon in Matilda's heart to indignation, 
and indignation to a burning thirst for revenge. 
The intensity of the first excitement subsided ; 
but Matilda never forgot and never forgave the 
disappointment and the indignity which she 
had endured. She had an opportunity long 
afterward to take terrible revenge on Brihtric 

A.D. 1045-52.] The Marriage. 107 

William and Matilda's consanguinity. An obstacle to their marriage. 

in England, by subjecting him to cruelties and 
hardships there which brought him to his grave. 

In the mean time, while her thoughts were 
so occupied with this attachment, she had, of 
course, no heart to listen favorably to Will- 
iam's proposals. Her friends would have at- 
tached no importance to the real cause of her 
aversion to the match, but they felt the force 
of the objections which could justly be advanced 
against William's rank, and his real right to 
his tin-one. Then the consanguinity of the 
parties was a great source of embarrassment 
and trouble. Persons as nearly related to each 
other as they were, w T ere forbidden by the Ro- 
man Catholic rules to marry. There was such 
a thing as getting a dispensation from the pope, 
by which the marriage would be authorized. 
William accordingly sent embassadors to Rome 
to negotiate this business. This, of course, 
opened a new field for difficulties and delays. 

The papal authorities were accustomed, in 
such cases, to exact as the price, or, rather, as 
the condition of their dispensation, some grant 
or beneficial conveyance from the parties inter- 
ested, to the Church, such as the foundation of 
an abbey or a monastery, the building of a 
chapel, or the endowment of a charity, by way, 

108 William the Conqueror. 

Negotiations with the pope. Causes of delay. 

as it were, of making amends to the Church, by 
the benefit thus received, for whatever injury 
the cause of religion and morality might sus- 
tain by the relaxation of a divine law. Of 
course, this being the end in view, the tendency 
on the part of the authorities at Rome would 
be to protract the negotiations, so as to obtain 
from the suitor's impatience better terms in the 
end. The embassadors and commissioners, too, 
on William's part, would have no strong motive 
for hastening the proceedings. Rome was an 
agreeable place of residence, and to live there as 
the embassador of a royal duke of Normandy 
was to enjoy a high degree of consideration, and 
to be surrounded continually by scenes of mag- 
nificence and splendor. Then, again, William 
himself was not always at leisure to urge the 
business forward by giving it his own close at- 
tention ; for, during the period while these ne- 
gotiations were pending, he was occupied, from 
time to time, with foreign wars, or in the sup- 
pression of rebellions among his barons. Thus, 
' from one cause and another, it seemed as if the 
business would never come to an end. 

In fact, a less resolute and determined man 
than William would have given up in despair, 
for it was seven years, it is said, before the af- 

A.D. 1045-52.] The Marriage. 109 

William's quarrel with Matilda. The reconciliation. 

fair was brought to a conclusion. One story is 
told of the impetuous energy which William 
manifested in this suit, which seems almost in- 

It was after the negotiations had been pro- 
tracted for several years, and at a time w T hen 
the difficulties were principally those arising 
from Matilda's opposition, that the occurrence 
took place. It was at an interview which "Will- 
iam had with Matilda in the streets of Bruges, 
one of her father's cities. All that took place 
at the interview is not known, but in the end 
of it William's resentment at Matilda's treat- 
ment of him lost all bounds. He struck her or 
pushed her so violently as to throw her down 
upon the ground. It is said that he struck her 
repeatedly, and then, leaving her with her clothes 
all soiled and disheveled, rode off in a rage. 
Love quarrels are often the means of bringing 
the contending parties nearer together than they 
were before, but such a terrible love quarrel as 
this, we hope, is very rare. 

Violent as it was, however, it was followed 
by a perfect reconciliation, and in the end all 
obstacles were removed, and William and Ma- 
tilda were married. The event took place in 

110 William the Conqueror. 

The marriage. Rejoicings and festivities. 

The marriage ceremony was performed at 
one of William's castles, on the frontiers of Nor- 
mandy, as it is customary for princes and kings 
to be married always in their own dominions. 
Matilda was conducted there with great pomp 
and parade by her parents, and was accompa- 
nied by a large train of attendants and friends. 
This company, mounted — both knights and la- 
dies — on horses beautifully caparisoned, moved 
across the country like a little army on a march, 
or rather like a triumphal procession escorting 
a queen. Matilda was received at the castle 
with distinguished honor, and the marriage cel- 
ebrations, and the entertainments accompany- 
ing it, were continued for several days. It was 
a scene of unusual festivity and rejoicing. 

The dress both of William and Matilda, on 
this occasion, was very specially splendid. She 
wore a mantle studded with the most costly 
jewels ; and, in addition to the other splendors 
of his dress, William too wore a mantle and a 
helmet, both of which were richly adorned with 
the same costly decorations. So much import- 
ance was attached, in those days, to this out- 
ward show, and so great was the public inter- 
est taken in it, that these dresses of William 
and Matilda, with all the jewelry that adorned 

A.D. 1052.] The Marriage. Ill 

Residence at Rouen. Ancient castles and palaces. 

them, were deposited afterward in the great 
church at Bayeux, where they remained a sort 
of public spectacle, the property of the Church, 
for nearly five hundred years. 

From the castle of Augi, where the marriage 
ceremonies were performed, William proceeded, 
after these first festivities and rejoicings were 
over, to the great city of Rouen, conducting his 
bride thither with great pomp and parade. 
Here the young couple established themselves, 
living in the enjoyment of every species of lux- 
ury and splendor which were attainable in those 
days. As has already been said, the interiors, 
even of royal castles and palaces, presented but 
few of the comforts and conveniences deemed 
essential to the happiness of a home in modern 
times. The European ladies of the present day 
delight in their suites of retired and well-fur- 
nished apartments, adorned with velvet carpets, 
and silken curtains, and luxuriant beds of down, 
with sofas and couches adapted to every fancy 
which the caprice of fatigue or restlessness may 
assume, and cabinets stored with treasures, and 
libraries of embellished books — the whole scene 
illuminated by the splendor of gas-lights, whose 
brilliancy is reflected by mirrors and candela- 
bras, sparkling with a thousand hues. Matil- 

112 "William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's palace. Luxury and splendor. 

da's feudal palace presented no such scenes as 
these. The cold stone floors were covered with 
mats of rushes. The walls — if the naked ma- 
sonry was hidden at all — were screened by 
hangings of coarse tapestry, ornamented with 
uncouth and hideous figures. The beds were 
miserable pallets, the windows were loop-holes, 
and the castle itself had all the architectural 
characteristics of a prison. 

Still, there was a species of luxury and splen- 
dor even then. Matilda had splendid horses to 
ride, all magnificently caparisoned. She had 
dresses adorned most lavishly with gold and 
jewels. There were troops of valiant knights, 
all glittering in armor of steel, to escort her on 
her journeys, and accompany and wait upon 
her on her excursions of pleasure ; and there 
were grand banquets and carousals, from time 
to time, in the long castle hall, with tourna- 
ments, and races, and games, and other military 
shows, conducted with great parade and pa- 
geantry. Matilda thus commenced her married 
life in luxury and splendor. 

In luxury and splendor, but not in peace. 
"William had an uncle, whose name was Mau- 
ger. He was the Archbishop of Rouen, and was 
a dignitary of great influence and power. Now 

A.D. 1052.] The Marriage. 113 

Mauger, archbishop of Rouen. William find Matilda excommunicated. 

it was, of course, the interest of William's rel- 
atives that he should not be married, as every 
increase of probability that his crown would de- 
scend to direct heirs diminished their future 
chances of the succession, and of course under- 
mined their present importance. Mauger had 
been very much opposed to this match, and had 
exerted himself in every way, while the negoti- 
ations were pending, to impede and delay them. 
The point which he most strenuously urged was 
the consanguinity of the parties, a point to 
which it was incumbent on him, as he main- 
tained — being the head of the Church in Nor- 
mandy — 'particularly to attend. It seems that, 
notwithstanding William's negotiations with 
the pope to obtain a dispensation, the affair was 
not fully settled at Rome before the marriage ; 
and very soon after the celebration of the nup- 
tials, Mauger fulminated an edict of excommu- 
nication against both William and Matilda, for 
intermarrying within the degrees of relationship 
which the canons of the Church proscribed. 

An excommunication, in the Middle Ages, 
was a terrible calamity. The person thus con- 
demned was made, so far as such a sentence 
could effect it, an outcast from man, and a 
wretch accursed of Heaven. The most terrible 

114 "William the Conqueror. 

Lanfranc sent to negotiate with the pope. His success. 

denunciations were uttered against him, and in 
the case of a prince, like that of William, his 
subjects were all absolved from their allegiance, 
and forbidden to succor or defend him. A pow- 
erful potentate like "William could maintain 
himself for a time against the influence and ef- 
fects of such a course, but it was pretty sure to 
work more and more strongly against him 
through the superstitions of the people, and to 
wear him out in the end. 

"William resolved to appeal at once to the 
pope, and to effect, by some means or other, the 
object of securing his dispensation. There was 
a certain monk, then obscure and unknown, but 
who afterward became a very celebrated public 
character, named Lanfranc, whom, for some 
reason or other, "William supposed to possess 
the necessary qualifications for this mission. 
He accordingly gave him his instructions and 
sent him away. Lanfranc proceeded to Rome, 
and there he managed the negotiation with the 
pope so dexterously as soon to bring it to a con- 

The arrangement which he made was this. 
The pope was to grant the dispensation and 
confirm the marriage, thus removing the sen- 
tence of excommunication which the Archbish- 

A.D.1052.] The Marriage. 115 

Conditions of Lanfranc's treaty. Their fulfillment. 

op Mauger had pronounced, on condition that 
William should build and endow a hospital for 
a hundred poor persons, and also erect two ab- 
beys, one to be built by himself, for monks, and 
one by Matilda, for nuns. Lanfranc agreed to 
these conditions on the part of William and 
Matilda, and they, when they came to be in- 
formed of them, accepted and confirmed them 
with great joy. The ban of excommunication 
was removed ; all Normandy acquiesced in the 
marriage, and William and Matilda proceeded 
to form the plans and to superintend the con- 
struction of the abbeys. 

They selected the city of Caen for the site. 
The place of this city will be seen marked upon 
the map near the northern coast of Normandy.* 
It was situated in a broad and pleasant valley, 
at the confluence of two rivers, and was sur- 
rounded by beautiful and fertile meadows. It 
was strongly fortified, being surrounded by walls 
and towers, which William's ancestors, the 
dukes of Normandy, had built. William and 
Matilda took a strong interest in the plans and 
constructions connected with the building of 
the abbeys. William's was a very extensive 
edifice, and contained within its inclosures a 

* See map, chapter ix. 

116 William the Conqueror. 

William and Matilda's children. Matilda's domestic character. 

royal palace for himself, where, in subsequent 
years, himself and Matilda often resided. 

The principal buildings of these abbeys still 
stand, though the walls and fortifications of 
Caen are gone. The buildings are used now 
for other purposes than those for which they 
were erected, but they retain the names origi- 
nally given them, and are visited by great num- 
bers of tourists, being regarded with great in- 
terest as singular memorials of the past — twin 
monuments commemorating an ancient mar- 

The marriage being thus finally confirmed 
and acquiesced in, William and Matilda en- 
joyed a long period of domestic peace. The 
oldest child was a son. He was born within a 
year of the marriage, and William named him 
Robert, that, as the reader will recollect, hav- 
ing been the name of William's father. There 
was, in process of time, a large family of chil- 
dren. Their names were Robert, William Ru- 
fus, Henry, Cecilia, Agatha, Constance, Adela, 
Adelaide, and Grundred. Matilda devoted her- 
self with great maternal fidelity to the care and 
education of these children, and many of them 
became subsequently historical personages of 
the highest distinction. 

A.D. 1052.] The Marriage. 117 

Objects of William's marriage. Baldwin, Count of Flanders. 

The object which, it will be recollected, was 
one of William's main inducements for con- 
tracting this alliance, namely, the strengthen- 
ing of his power by thus connecting himself 
with the reigning family of Flanders, was, in a 
great measure, accomplished. The two gov- 
ernments, leagued together by this natural tie, 
strengthened each other's power, and often ren- 
dered each other essential assistance, though 
there was one occasion, subsequently, when 
William's reliance on this aid was disappoint- 
ed. It was as follows : 

When he was planning his invasion of En- 
gland, he sent to Matilda's brother, Baldwin, 
who was then Count of Flanders, inviting him 
to raise a force and join him. Baldwin, who 
considered the enterprise as dangerous and 
Quixotic, sent back word to inquire what share 
of the English territory William would give 
him if he would go and help him conquer it. 
William thought that this attempt to make 
a bargain beforehand, for a division of spoil, 
evinced a very mercenary and distrustful spirit 
on the part of his brother-in-law — a spirit which 
he was not at all disposed to encourage. He 
accordingly took a sheet of parchment, and 
writing nothing within, he folded it in the form 

118 William the Conqueror. 

The blank letter. Baldwin's surprise. 

of a letter, and wrote upon the outside the fol- 
lowing rhyme : 

"Beau frere, en Angleterre vous aurez 
Ce qui dedans escript, vous trouverez." 

"Which royal distich might be translated thus : 

" Your share, good brother, of the land we win, 
You'll find entitled and described within." 

William forwarded the empty missive by the 
hand of a messenger, who delivered it to Bald- 
win as if it were a dispatch of great consequence. 
Baldwin received it eagerly, and opened it at 
once. He was surprised at finding nothing 
within ; and after turning the parchment every 
way, in vain search after the description of 
his share, he asked the messenger what it meant. 
" It means," said he, " that as there is nothing 
writ within, so nothing you shall have." 

Notwithstanding this witticism, however, 
some arrangement seems afterward to have 
been made between the parties, for Flanders 
did, in fact, contribute an important share to- 
ward the force which William raised when pre- 
paring for the invasion. 

AD. 1002.] The Lady Emma. 119 

William's claims to the English throne. The Lady Emma. 

Chapter YI. 

The Lady Emma. 

"FT is not to be supposed that, even in the war- 
-■- like times of which we are writing, such a 
potentate as a duke of Normandy would invade 
a country like England, so large and powerful 
in comparison to his own, without some pretext. 
"William's pretext was, that he himself was the 
legitimate successor to the English crown, and 
that the English king who possessed it at the 
time of his invasion was a usurper. In order 
that the reader may understand the nature and 
origin of this his claim, it is necessary to relate 
somewhat in full the story of the Lady Emma. 

By referring to the genealogy of the Norman 
line of dukes contained in the second chapter of 
this volume, it will he seen that Emma was the 
daughter of the first Richard. She was cele- 
brated in her early years for her great personal 
beauty. They called her the Pearl of Normandy. 

She married, at length, one of the kings of 
England, whose name was Ethelred. England 
was at that time distracted by civil wars, waged 

120 William the Conqueror. 

Claimants to the English throne. Ethelred. 

between the two antagonist races of Saxons and 
Danes. There were, in fact, two separate dy- 
nasties or lines of kings, who were contending, 
all the time, for the mastery. In these contests, 
sometimes the Danes would triumph for a time, 
and sometimes the Saxons ; and sometimes hoth 
races would have a royal representative in the 
field, each claiming the throne, and reigning 
over separate portions of the island. Thus there 
were, at certain periods, two kingdoms in En- 
gland, hoth covering the same territory, and 
claiming the government of the same popula- 
tion — with two kings, two capitals, two admin- 
istrations — while the wretched inhabitants were 
distracted and ruined by the terrible conflicts 
to which these hostile pretensions gave rise. 

Ethelred was of the Saxon line. He was a 
widower at the time of his marriage to Emma, 
nearly forty years old, and he had, among other 
children by his former wife, a son named Ed- 
mund, an active, energetic young man, who aft- 
erward became king. One motive which he 
had in view in marrying Emma was to strength- 
en his position by securing the alliance of the 
Normans of Normandy. The Danes, his En- 
glish enemies, were Normans. The government 
of Normandy would therefore be naturally in- 

A.D. 1002.] The Lady Emma. 121 

Ethelred subdued. He flies to Normandy. 

clined to take part with them. By this mar- 
riage, however, Ethelred hoped to detach the 
Normans of France from the cause of his ene- 
mies, and to unite them to his own. He would 
thus gain a double advantage, strengthening 
himself by an accession which weakened his foes. 

His plan succeeded so far as inducing Rich- 
ard himself, the Duke of Normandy, to espouse 
his cause, but it did not enable Ethelred to tri- 
umph over his enemies. They, on the contra- 
ry, conquered him, and, in the end, drove him 
from the country altogether. He fled to Nor- 
mandy for refuge, with Emma his wife, and his 
two young sons. Their names were Edward 
and Alfred. 

Richard II., Emma's brother, who was then 
the Duke of Normandy, received the unhappy 
fugitives with great kindness, although he, at 
least, scarcely deserved it. It was not surpris- 
ing that he was driven from his native realm, 
for he possessed none of those high qualities of 
mind which fit men to conquer or to govern. 
Like all other weak-minded tyrants, he substi- 
tuted cruelty for wisdom and energy in his at- 
tempts to subjugate his foes. As soon as he 
was married to Emma, for instance, feeling 
elated and strong at the great accession of pow- 

122 William the Conqueror. 

Massacre of the Danes. Horrors of civil war. 

er which he imagined he had obtained by this 
alliance, he planned a general massacre of the 
Danes, and executed it on a given day, by 
means of private orders, sent secretly through- 
out the kingdom. Vast numbers of the Danes 
were destroyed ; and so great was the hatred of 
the two races for each other, that they who had 
these bloody orders to obey executed them with 
a savage cruelty that was absolutely horrible. 
In one instance they buried women to the waist, 
and then set dogs upon them, to tear their nak- 
ed flesh until they died in agony. It would be 
best, in narrating history, to suppress such hor- 
rid details as these, were it not that in a land 
like this, where so much depends upon the influ- 
ence of every individual in determining whether 
the questions and discussions which are from 
time to time arising, and are hereafter to arise, 
shall be settled peacefully, or by a resort to vi- 
olence and civil war, it is very important that 
we should all know what civil war is, and to 
what horrible atrocities it inevitably leads. 

Alfred the Great, when he was contending 
with the Danes in England, a century before 
this time, treated them, so far as he gained ad- 
vantages over them, with generosity and kind- 
ness ; and this policy wholly conquered them in 

A.D. 1002.] The Lady Emma. 123 

Ethelred's tyranny. Emma's policy. 

the end. Ethelred, on the other hand, tried the 
effect of the most tyrannical cruelty, and the 
effect was only to arouse his enemies to a more 
determined and desperate resistance. It was 
the phrensy of vengeance and hate that these 
atrocities awakened every where among the 
Danes, which nerved them with so much vigor 
and strength that they finally expelled him from 
the island; so that, when he arrived in Nor- 
mandy, a fugitive and an exile, he came in the 
character of a dethroned tyrant, execrated for 
his senseless and atrocious cruelties, and not in 
that of an unhappy prince driven from his home 
"by the pressure of unavoidable calamity. Nev- 
ertheless, Richard, the Duke of Normandy, re- 
ceived him, as we have already said, with kind- 
ness. He felt the obligation of receiving the 
exiled monarch in a hospitable manner, if not 
on his own account, at least for the sake of 
Emma and the children. 

The origin and end of Emma's interest in 
Ethelred seems to have been merely ambition. 
The " Pearl of Normandy" had given herself to 
this monster for the sake, apparently, of the 
glory of being the English queen. Her subse- 
quent conduct compels the readers of history to 
make this supposition, which otherwise would 

124 William the Conqueror. 

Emma's humiliation. Ethelred invited to return. 

be uncharitable. She now mourned her disap- 
pointment in finding that, instead of being sus- 
tained by her husband in the lofty position to 
which she aspired, she was obliged to come back 
to her former home again, to be once more de- 
pendent, and with the additional burden of her 
husband himself, and her children, upon her 
father's family. Her situation was rendered 
even still more humiliating, in some degree, 
by the circumstances that her father was no 
longer alive, and that it was to her brother, on 
whom her natural claim was far less strong, 
that she had now to look for shelter and pro- 
tection. Richard, however, received them all 
in a kind and generous manner. 

In the mean time, the wars and commotions 
which had driven Ethelred away continued to 
rage in England, the Saxons gradually gaining 
ground against the Danes. At length the kin^ 
of the Danes, who had seized the government 
when Ethelred was expelled, died. The Saxons 
then regained their former power, and they sent 
commissioners to Ethelred to propose his return 
to England. At the same time, they expressed 
their unwillingness to receive him, unless they 
could bind him, by a solemn treaty, to take a 
very different course of conduct, in the future 

A.D.1002.] The Lady Emma. 125 

Bestoration of Ethelred and Emma. War with Canute. 

management of his government, from that which 
he had pursued before. Ethelred and Emma 
were eager to regain, on any terms, their lost 
throne. They sent over embassadors empow- 
ered to make, in Ethelred's name, any prom- 
ises which the English nobles might demand ; 
and shortly afterward the royal pair crossed the 
Channel and went to London, and Ethelred was 
acknowledged there by the Saxon portion of 
the population of the island once more as king. 
The Danes, however, though weakened, were 
not yet disposed to submit. They declared 
their allegiance to Canute, who was the suc- 
cessor in the Danish line. Then followed a 
long war between Canute and Ethelred. Ca- 
nute was a man of extraordinary sagacity and 
intelligence, and also of great courage and en- 
ergy. Ethelred, on the other hand, proved him- 
self, notwithstanding all his promises, incurably 
inefficient, cowardly, and cruel. In fact, his 
son Prince Edmund, the son of his first wife, 
was far more efficient than his father in resist- 
ing Canute and the Danes. Edmund was ac- 
tive and fearless, and he soon acquired very ex- 
tensive power. In fact, he seems to have held 
the authority of his father in very little respect. 
One striking instance of this insubordination 

126 William the Conqueror. 

Ethelred's death. Situation of Emma. 

occurred. Ethelred had taken offense, for some 
reason or other, at one of the nobles in his realm, 
and had put him to death, and confiscated his 
estates ; and, in addition to this, with a cruel- 
ty characteristic of him, he shut up the unhap- 
py widow of his victim, a young and beautiful 
woman, in a gloomy convent, as a prisoner. 
Edmund, his son, went to the convent, liberated 
the prisoner, and made her his own wife. 

With such unfriendly relations between the 
king and his son, who seems to have been the 
ablest general in his father's army, there could 
be little hope of making head against such an 
enemy as Canute the Dane. In fact, the course 
of public affairs went on from bad to worse, 
Emma leading all the time a life of unceasing 
anxiety and alarm. At length, in 1016, Eth- 
elred died, and Emma's cup of disappointment 
and humiliation was now full. Her own sons, 
Edward and Alfred, had no claims to the crown ; 
for Edmund, being the son by a former mar- 
riage, was older than they. They were too 
young to take personally an active part in the 
fierce contests of the day, and thus fight their 
way to importance and power. And then Ed- 
mund, who was now to become king, would, of 
course, feel no interest in advancing them, or 

A.D. 1017.] The Lady Emma. 129 

Flight of Emma to Normandy. Her children. 

doing honor to her. A son who would thwart 
and counteract the plans and measures of a 
father, as Edmund had done, would be little 
likely to evince much deference or regard for a 
mother-in-law, or for half brothers, whom he 
would naturally consider as his rivals. In a 
word, Emma had reason to be alarmed at the 
situation of insignificance and danger in which 
she found herself suddenly placed. She fled a 
second time, in destitution and distress, to her 
brother's in Normandy. She was now, how- 
ever, a widow, and her children were fatherless. 
It is difficult to decide whether to consider her 
situation as better or worse on this account, 
than it was at her former exile. 

Her sons were lads, but little advanced be- 
yond the period of childhood ; and Edward, the 
eldest, on whom the duty of making exertions 
to advance the family interests would first de- 
volve, was of a quiet and gentle spirit, giving 
little promise that he would soon be disposed 
to enter vigorously upon military campaigns. 
Edmund, on the other hand, who was now king, 
was in the prime of life, and was a man of great 
spirit and energy. There was a reasonable 
prospect that he would live many years ; and 
even if he were to be suddenly cut off, there 

130 William the Conqueror. 

War with Canute. Treaty between Edmund and Canute. 

seemed to be no hope of the restoration of Emma 
to importance or power ; for Edmund was mar- 
ried and had two sons, one of whom would he 
entitled to succeed him in case of his decease. 
It seemed, therefore, to he Emma's destiny now, 
to spend the remainder of her days with her 
children in neglect and obscurity. The case 
resulted differently, however, as we shall see in 
the end. 

Edmund, notwithstanding his prospect of a 
long and prosperous career, was cut off sudden- 
ly, after a* stormy reign of one year. During 
his reign, Canute the Dane had been fast gain- 
ing gronnd in England, notwithstanding the 
vigor and energy with which Edmund had op- 
posed him. Finally, the two monarchs assem- 
bled their armies, and were about to fight a 
great final battle. Edmund sent a flag of truce 
to Canute's camp, proposing that, to save the 
effusion of blood, they should agree to decide 
the case by single combat, and that he and Ca- 
nute should be the champions, and fight in pres- 
ence of the armies. Canute declined this pro- 
posal. He was himself small and slender in 
form, while Edmund was distinguished for his 
personal development and muscular strength. 
Canute therefore declined the personal contest, 

A.D.1017.] The Lady Emma. 131 

Death of Edmund. Accession of Canute. 

but offered to leave the question to the decision 
of a council chosen from among the leading 
nobles on either side. This plan was finally 
adopted. The council convened, and, after long 
deliberations, they framed a treaty by which the 
country was divided between the two poten- 
tates, and a sort of peace was restored. A very 
short period after this treaty was settled, Ed- 
mund was murdered. 

Canute immediately laid claim to the whole 
realm. He maintained that it was a part of 
the treaty that the partition of the kingdom was 
to continue only during their joint lives, and 
that, on the death of either, the whole was to 
pass to the survivor of them. The Saxon lead- 
ers did not admit this, but they were in no con- 
dition very strenuously to oppose it. Ethelred's 
sons by E mma were too young to come forward 
as leaders yet ; and as to Edmund's, they were 
mere children. There was, therefore, no one 
whom they could produce as an efficient repre- 
sentative of the Saxon line, and thus the Sax- 
ons were compelled to submit to Canute's pre- 
tensions, at least for a time. They would not 
wholly give up the claims of Edmund's children, 
but they consented to waive them for a season. 
They gave Canute the guardianship of the boys 

132 William the Conqueror. 

Canute's wise policy. His treatment of Edmund's children. 

until they should become of age, and allowed 
him, in the mean time, to reign, himself, over 
the whole land. 

Canute exercised his power in a very discreet 
and judicious manner, seeming intent, in all 
his arrangements, to protect the rights and in- 
terests of the Saxons as well as of the Danes. 
It might he supposed that the lives of the young 
Saxon princes, Edmund's sons, would not have 
been safe in his hands ; hut the policy which he 
immediately resolved to pursue was to concili- 
ate the Saxons, and not to intimidate and coerce 
them. He therefore did the young children no 
harm, but sent them away out of the country to 
Denmark, that they might, if possible, be grad- 
ually forgotten. Perhaps he thought that, if 
the necessity should arise for it, they might 
there, at any time, be put secretly to death. 

There was another reason still to prevent 
Canute's destroying these children, wdrich was, 
that if they were removed, the claims of the 
Saxon line would not thereby be extinguished, 
but would only be transferred to Emma's chil- 
dren in Normandy, who, being older, were like- 
ly the sooner to be in a condition to give him 
trouble as rivals. It was therefore a very wise 
and sagacious policy which prompted him to 

A.D. 1017-37.] The Lady Emma. 133 

Canute marries Emma. Opposition of her sons. 

keep the young children of Edmund alive, hut 
to remove them to a safe distance out of the way. 

In respect to Emma's children, Canute con- 
ceived a different plan for guarding against any 
danger which came from their claims, and that 
was, to propose to take their mother for his wife. 
By this plan her family would come into his 
power, and then her own influence and that of 
her Norman friends would he forever prevented 
from taking sides against him. He according- 
ly made the proposal. Emma was ambitious 
enough of again returning to her former position 
of greatness as English queen to accept it ea- 
gerly. The world condemned her for being so 
ready to marry, for her second husband, the 
deadly enemy and rival of the first ; but it was 
all one to her whether her husband was Saxon 
or Dane, provided that she could be queen. 

The boys, or, rather, the young men, for they 
w T ere now advancing to maturity, were very 
strongly opposed to this connection. They did 
all in their power to prevent its consummation, 
and they never forgave their mother for thus 
basely betraying their interests. They were 
the more incensed at this transaction, because 
it was stipulated in the marriage articles be- 
tween Canute and Emma that their future chil- 

134 William the Conqueror. 

Emma again queen of England. The Earl Godwin. 

dren — the offspring of the marriage then con- 
tracted — should succeed to the throne of En- 
gland, to the exclusion of all previously born on 
either side. Thus Canute fancied that he had 
secured his title, and that of his descendants, to 
the crown forever, and Emma prepared to re- 
turn to England as once more its queen. The 
marriage was celebrated with great pomp and 
splendor, and Emma, bidding Normandy and 
her now alienated children farewell, was con- 
ducted in state to the royal palace in London. 

We must now pass over, with a very few 
words, a long interval of twenty years. It was 
the period of Canute's reign, which was pros- 
perous and peaceful. During this period Em- 
ma's Norman sons continued in Normandy. 
She had another son in England a few years 
after her marriage, who was named Canute, aft- 
er his father, but he is generally known in his- 
tory by the name of Hardicanute, the prefix be- 
ing a Saxon word denoting energetic or strong. 
Canute had also a very celebrated minister in 
his government named Grodwin. Godwin was 
a Saxon of a very humble origin, and the histo- 
ry of his life constitutes quite a romantic tale. # 

* It is given at length in the last chapter of our history 
of Alfred the Great, 

A.D.1037.] The Lady Emma. 135 

Canute's death. He bequeaths the kingdom to Harold. 

He was a man of extraordinary talents and 
character, and at the time of Canute's death he 
was altogether the most powerful subject in the 

When Canute found that he was about to 
die, and began to consider what arrangements 
he should make for the succession, he concluded 
that it would not be safe for him to fulfill the 
agreement made in his marriage contract with 
Emma, that the children of that marriage 
should inherit the kingdom ; for Hardicanute, 
who was entitled to succeed under that cove- 
nant, was only about sixteen or seventeen years 
old, and consequently too young to attempt to 
govern. He therefore made a will, in which he 
left the kingdom to an older son, named Harold 
— a son whom he had had before his marriage 
with Emma. This was the signal for a new 
struggle. The influence of the Saxons and of 
Emma's friends was of course in favor of Har- 
dicanute, while the Danes espoused the cause 
of Harold. Godwin at length taking sides 
with this last-named party, Harold was estab- 
lished on the throne, and Emma and all her 
children, whether descended from Ethelred or 
Canute, were set aside and forgotten. 

Emma was not at all disposed to acquiesce 

136 "William the Conqueror. 

Emma's plots for her children. Her letter to them. 

in this change of fortune. She remained in 
England, but was secretly incensed at her sec- 
ond husband's breach of faith toward her ; and 
as he had abandoned the child of his marriage 
with her for his former children, she now de- 
termined to abandon him for hers. She gave 
up Hardicanute's cause, therefore, and began 
secretly to plot among the Saxon population 
for bringing forward her son Edward to the 
throne. When she thought that things were 
ripe for the execution of the plot, she wrote a 
letter to her children in Normandy, saying to 
them that the Saxon population were weary of 
the Danish line, and were ready, she believed, 
to rise in behalf of the ancient Saxon line, if 
the true representative of it would appear to 
lead them. She therefore invited them to come 
to London and consult with her on the subject. 
She directed them, however, to come, if they 
came at all, in a quiet and peaceful manner, 
and without any appearance of hostile intent, 
inasmuch as any thing which might seem like 
a foreign invasion would awaken universal jeal- 
ousy and alarm. 

When this letter was received by the broth- 
ers in Normandy, the eldest, Edward, declined 
to go, but gave his consent that Alfred should 

A J). 1037.] The Lady Emma. 137 

Disastrous issue of Alfred's expedition. His terrible sentence. 

undertake the expedition if he were disposed. 
Alfred accepted the proposal. In fact, the tem- 
perament and character of the two brothers were 
very different. Edward was sedate, serious, 
and timid. Alfred was ardent and aspiring. 
The younger, therefore, decided to take the risk 
of crossing the Channel, while the elder prefer- 
red to remain at home. 

The result was very disastrous. Contrary to 
his mother's instructions, Alfred took with him 
quite a troop of Norman soldiers. He crossed 
the Channel in safety, and advanced across the 
country some distance toward London. Harold 
sent out a force to intercept him. He was sur- 
rounded, and he himself and all his followers 
were taken prisoners. He was sentenced to 
lose his eyes, and he died in a few days after 
the execution of this terrible sentence, from the 
mingled effects of fever and of mental anguish 
and despair. Emma fled to Flanders. 

Finally Harold died, and Hardicanute suc- 
ceeded him. In a short time Hardicanute died, 
leaving no heirs, and now, of course, there was 
no one left* to compete with Emma's oldest 

* The children of Ethelred's oldest son, Edmund, were in 
Hungar} T at this time, and seem to have been wellnigh for- 

138 William the Conqueror. 

Edward's accession. Emma wretched and miserable. 

son Edward, who had remained all this time 
quietly in Normandy. He was accordingly pro- 
claimed king. This was in 1041. He reigned 
for twenty years, having commenced his reign 
ahout the time that William the Conqueror was 
established in the possession of his dominions as 
Duke of Normandy. Edward had known Will- 
iam intimately during his long residence in Nor- 
mandy, and William came to visit him in En- 
gland in the course of his reign. William, in 
fact, considered himself as Edward's heir ; for 
as Edward, though married, had no children, 
the dukes of the Norman line were his nearest 
relatives. He obtained, he said, a promise from 
Edward that Edward would sanction and con- 
firm his claim to the English crown, in the event 
of his decease, by bequeathing it to William in 
his will. 

Emma was now advanced in years. The 
ambition which had been the ruling principle 
of her life would seem to have been well satis- 
fied, so far as it is possible to satisfy ambition, 
for she had had two husbands and two sons, 
all kings of England. But as she advanced to- 
ward the close of her career, she found herself 
wretched and miserable. Her son Edward 
could not forgive her for her abandonment of 

A.D. 1063.] The Lady Emma. 139 

Accusations against Emma. Her wretched end. 

himself and his brother, to marry a man who 
was their own and their father's bitterest enemy. 
She had made a formal treaty in her marriage 
covenant to exclude them from the throne. She 
had treated them with neglect during all the 
time of Canute's reign, while she was living 
with him in London in power and splendor. 
Edward accused her, also, of having connived 
at his brother Alfred's death. The story is, 
that he caused her to be tried on this charge 
by the ordeal of fire. This method consisted of 
laying red-hot irons upon the stone floor of a 
church, at certain distances from each other, 
and requiring the accused to walk over them 
with naked feet. If the accused was innocent, 
Providence, as they supposed, would so guide 
his footsteps that he should not touch the irons. 
Thus, if he was innocent, he would go over 
safely ; if guilty, he would be burned. Emma, 
according to the story of the times, was sub- 
jected to this test, in the Cathedral of "Win- 
chester, to determine whether she was cogni- 
zant of the murder of her son. Whether this 
is true or not, there is no doubt that Edward 
confined her a prisoner in the monastery at 
Winchester, where she ended her days at last 
in neglect and wretchedness. 

140 William the Conqueror. 

Edmund's children. Godwin. Harold. 

When Edward himself drew near to the close 
of his life, his mind was greatly perplexed in 
respect to the succession. There was one de- 
scendant of his brother Edmund — whose chil- 
dren, it will be remembered, Canute had sent 
away to Denmark, in order to remove them out 
of the way — who was still living in Hungary. 
The name of this descendant was Edward. He 
was, in fact, the lawful heir to the crown. But 
he had spent his life in foreign countries, and 
was now far-away ; and, in the mean time, the 
Earl Godwin, who has been already mentioned 
as the great Saxon nobleman who rose from a 
very humble rank to the position of the most 
powerful subject in the realm, obtained such 
an influence, and wielded so great a power, that 
he seemed at one time stronger than the king 
himself. G-odwin at length died, but his son 
Harold, who was as energetic and active as his 
father, inherited his power, and seemed, as Ed- 
ward thought, to be aspiring to the future pos- 
session of the throne. Edward had hated God- 
win and all his family, and was now extremely 
anxious to prevent the possibility of Harold's 
accession. He accordingly sent to Hungary to 
bring Edward, his nephew, home. Edward 
came, bringing his family with him. He had 

A.D. 1052.] The Lady Emma. 141 

Plans of Edward. Plots and counterplots. 

a young son named Edgar. It was King Ed- 
ward's plan to make arrangements for bring- 
ing this Prince Edward to the throne after his 
death, that Harold might he excluded. 

The plan was a very judicious one, hut it was 
unfortunately frustrated hy Prince Edward's 
death, which event took place soon after he ar- 
rived in England. The young Edgar, then a 
child, was, of course, his heir. The king was 
convinced that no government which could be 
organized in the name of Edgar would be able 
to resist the mighty power of Harold, and he 
turned his thoughts, therefore, again to the ac- 
cession of William of Normandy, who was the 
nearest relative on his mother's side, as the only 
means of saving the realm from falling into the 
hands of the usurper Harold. A long and vex- 
atious contest then ensued, in which the lead- 
ing powers and influences of the kingdom were 
divided and distracted by the plans, plots, man- 
euvers, and counter maneuvers of Harold to 
obtain the accession for himself, and of Edward 
to secure it for William of Normandy. In this 
contest Harold conquered in the first instance, 
and Edward and William in the end. 

142 William the Conqueror. 

Harold and William. Quarrel between Godwin and Edward. 

Chapter VII, 
King Harold. 

HAROLD, the son of the Earl Godwin, who 
was maneuvering to gain possession of 
the English throne, and "William of Normandy, 
though they lived on opposite sides of the En- 
glish Channel, the one in France and the other 
in England, were still personally known to each 
other ; for not only had William, as was stated 
in the last chapter, paid a visit to England, but 
Harold himself, on one occasion, made an ex- 
cursion to Normandy. The circumstances of 
this expedition were, in some respects, quite ex- 
traordinary, and illustrate in a striking manner 
some of the peculiar ideas and customs of the 
times. They were as follows : 

During the life of Harold's father Godwin, 
there was a very serious quarrel between him, 
that is, Godwin, and King Edward, in which 
both the king and his rebellious subject marshal- 
ed their forces, and for a time waged against 
each other an open and sanguinary w T ar. In 
this contest the pow T er of G-odwin had proved so 


A.D. 1063.] King Harold. 143 

Treaty between Godwin and Edward. Hostages. 

formidable, and the military forces which he 
succeeded in marshaling under his banners were 
so great, that Edward's government was una- 
ble effectually to put him down. At length, 
after a long and terrible struggle, which involv- 
ed a large part of the country in the horrors of 
a civil war, the belligerents made a treaty with 
each other, which settled their quarrel by a sort 
of compromise. Godwin was to retain his high 
position and rank as a subject, and to continue 
in the government of certain portions of the isl- 
and which had long been under his jurisdiction ; 
he, on his part, promising to dismiss his armies, 
and to make war upon the king no more. He 
bound himself to the faithful performance of 
these covenants by giving the king hostages. 

The hostages given up on such occasions were 
always near and dear relatives and friends, and 
the understanding was, that if the party giving 
them failed in fulfilling his obligations, the in- 
nocent and helpless hostages were to be entirely 
at the mercy of the other party into whose cus- 
tody they had been given. The latter would, 
in such cases, imprison them, torture them, or 
put them to death, with a greater or less de- 
gree of severity in respect to the infliction of 
pain, according to the degree of exasperation 

144 William the Conqueror. 

The giving of hostages now abandoned. Cruelties inflicted. 

which the real or fancied injury which he had 
received awakened in his mind. 

This cruel method of binding fierce and un- 
principled men to the performance of their prom- 
ises has been universally abandoned in modern 
times, though in the rude and early stages of 
civilization it has been practiced among all na- 
tions, ancient and modern. The hostages cho- 
sen were often of young and tender years, and 
were always such as to render the separation 
which took place when they were torn from 
their friends most painful, as it was the very 
object of the selection to obtain those who were 
most beloved. They were delivered into the 
hands of those whom they had always regarded 
as their bitterest enemies, and who, of course, 
were objects of aversion and terror. They were 
sent away into places of confinement and seclu- 
sion, and kept in the custody of strangers, 
where they lived in perpetual fear that some 
new outbreak between the contending parties 
would occur, and consign them to torture or 
death. The cruelties sometimes inflicted, in 
such cases, on the innocent hostages, were aw- 
ful. At one time, -during the contentions be- 
tween Ethelred and Canute, Canute, being driv- 
en across the country to the sea-coast, and there 

A.D.1064.] King Harold. 145 

Canute's hostages. Godwin's hostages. 

compelled to embark on board his ships to make 
his escape, was cruel enough to cut off the hands 
and the feet of some hostages which Ethelred 
had previously given him, and leave them writh- 
ing in agony on the sands of the shore. 

The hostages which are particularly named 
by historians as given by Godwin to King Ed- 
ward were his son and his grandson. Their 
names were Ulnoth and Hacune. Ulnoth, of 
course, was Harold's brother, and Hacune his 
nephew. Edward, thinking that G-odwin would 
contrive some means of getting these securities 
back into his possession again if he attempted 
to keep them in England, decided to send them 
to Normandy, and to put them under the charge 
of William the duke for safe keeping. When 
Godwin died, Harold applied to Edward to give 
up the hostages, since, as he alleged, there was 
no longer any reason for detaining them. They 
had been given as security for Godwin } s good 
behavior, and now Godwin was no more. 

Edward could not well refuse to surrender 
them, and yet, as Harold succeeded to the 
power, and evidently possessed all the ambition 
of his father, it seemed to be, politically, as 
necessary to retain the hostages now as it had 
been before. Edward, therefore, without abso- 

146 "William the Conqueror. 

Edward declines to give up the hostages. Harold goes to Normandy. 

lutely refusing to surrender them, postponed 
and evaded compliance with Harold's demand, 
on the ground that the hostages were in Nor- 
mandy. He was going, he said, to send for 
them as soon as he could make the necessary 
arrangements for bringing them home in safety. 

Under these circumstances, Harold determ- 
ined to go and bring them himself. He pro- 
posed this plan to Edward. Edward would not 
absolutely refuse his consent, but he did all in 
his power to discourage such an expedition. He 
told Harold that "William of Normandy was a 
crafty and powerful man ; that by going into 
his dominions he would put himself entirely 
into his power, and would be certain to involve 
himself in some serious difficulty. This inter- 
view between Harold and the king is commem- 
orated on the Bayeux tapestry by the opposite 
uncouth design. 

What effect Edward's disapproval of the pro- 
ject produced upon Harold's mind is not cer- 
tainly known. It is true that he went across 
the Channel, but the accounts of the crossing 
are confused and contradictory, some of them 
stating that, while sailing for pleasure with a 
party of attendants and companions on the coast, 
he was blown off from the shore and driven 

A.D.1064.] King Harold. 


Harold's interview with Edward. 

Harold's interview with EDwaiiD. 

across to France by a storm. The probability, 
however, is, that this story was only a pretense- 
He was determined to go, but not wishing to 
act openly in defiance of the king's wishes, he 
contrived to be blown off, in order to make it 
seem that he went against his will. 

At all events, the storm was real, whether 
his being compelled to leave the English shores 
by the power of it was real or pretended. It 

148 William the Conqueror. 

Harold shipwrecked. Guy, count of Ponthieu. 

carried him, too, out of his course, driving him 
up the Channel to the eastward of Normandy, 
where he had intended to land, and at length 
throwing his galley, a wreck, on the shore, not 
far from the mouth of the Somme. The galley 
itself was "broken up, but Harold and his com- 
pany escaped to land. They found that they 
were in the dominions of a certain prince who 
held possessions on that coast, whose style and 
title was Guy, count of Ponthieu. 

The law in those days was, that wrecks he- 
came the property of the lord of the territory 
on the shores of which they occurred ; and not 
only were the ships and the goods which they 
contained thus confiscated in case of such a 
disaster, hut the owners themselves became li- 
able to be seized and held captive for a ransom. 
Harold, knowing his danger, was attempting to 
secrete himself on the coast till he could get to 
Normandy, when a fisherman who saw him, and 
knew by his dress and appearance, and by the 
deference with which he was treated by the rest 
of the company, that he was a man of great 
consequence in his native land, went to the 
count, and said that for ten crowns he would 
show him where there was a man who would 
be worth a thousand to him. The count came 

A.D. 1064.] King Harold. 149 

Harold a prisoner. He is ransomed by William. 

down with his retinue to the coast, seized the un- 
fortunate adventurers, took possession of all the 
goods and baggage that the waves had spared, 
and shut the men themselves up in his castle 
at Abbeville till they could pay their ransom. 

Harold remonstrated against this treatment. 
He said that he was on his way to Normandy 
on business of great importance with the duke, 
from the King of England, and that he could 
not be detained. But the count was very de- 
cided in refusing to let him go without his ran- 
som. Harold then sent word to "William, ac- 
quainting him with his situation, and asking 
him to effect his release. William sent to the 
count, demanding that he should give his pris- 
oner up. All these things, however, only tend- 
ed to elevate and enlarge the count's ideas of 
the value and importance of the prize which he 
had been so fortunate to secure. He persisted 
in refusing to give him up without ransom. 
Finally "William paid the ransom, in the shape 
of a large sum of money, and the cession, in 
addition, of a considerable territory. Harold 
and his companions in bondage were then de- 
livered to "William's messengers, and conducted 
by them in safety to Rouen, where "William 
was then residing. 

150 William the Conqueror. 

William s hospitality. His policy in this. 

"William received his distinguished guest 
with every possible mark of the most honorable 
consideration. He was escorted with great pa- 
rade and ceremony into the palace, lodged in 
the most sumptuous manner, provided with ev- 
ery necessary supply, and games, and military 
spectacles, and feasts and entertainments with- 
out number, were arranged to celebrate his visit. 
William informed him that he w T as at liberty to 
return to England whenever he pleased, and 
that his brother and his nephew, the hostages 
that lie had come to seek, were at his disposal. 
He, however, urged him not to return imme- 
diately, but to remain a short time in Norman- 
dy with his companions. Harold accepted the 

All this exuberance of hospitality had its or- 
igin, as the reader will readily divine, in the 
duke's joy in finding the only important rival 
likely to appear to contest his claims to the En- 
lish crown so fully in his power, and in the 
hope which he entertained of so managing affairs 
at this visit as to divert Harold's mind from the 
idea of becoming the King of England himself, 
and to induce him to pledge himself to act in 
his, that is, William's favor. He took, there- 
fore, all possible pains to make him enjoy his 

A.D.1064.] King Harold. 151 

William's treatment of his guests. Excursion to Brittany. 

visit in Normandy ; he exhibited to him the 
wealth and the resources of the country — con- 
ducting him from place to place to visit the cas- 
tles, the abbeys, and the towns — and, finally, he 
proposed that he should accompany him on a 
military expedition into Brittany. 

Harold, pleased with the honors conferred 
upon him, and with the novelty and magnifi- 
cence of the scenes to which he was introduced, 
entered heartily into all these plans, and his 
companions and attendants were no less pleased 
than he. William knighted many of these fol- 
lowers of Harold, and made them costly pres- 
ents of horses, and banners, and suits of armor, 
and other such gifts as were calculated to cap- 
tivate the hearts of martial adventurers such as 
they. William soon gained an entire ascend- 
ency over their minds, and when he invited 
them to accompany him on his expedition into 
Brittany, they were all eager to go. 

Brittany was w r est of Normandy, and on the 
frontiers of it, so that the expedition was not a 
distant one. Nor was it long protracted. It 
was, in fact, a sort of pleasure excursion, Will- 
iam taking his guest across the frontier into his 
neighbor's territory, on a marauding party, just 
as a nobleman, in modern times, would take a 

152 "William the Conqueror. 

Harold's talents. William's policy. 

party into a forest to hunt. William and Har- 
old were on the most intimate and friendly 
terms possible during the continuance of this 
campaign. They occupied the same tent, and 
ate at the same table. Harold evinced great 
military talents and much bravery in the va- 
rious adventures which they met with in Brit- 
tany, and William felt more than ever the de- 
sirableness of securing his influence on his, that 
is, William's side, or, at least, of preventing his 
becoming an open rival and enemy. On their 
return from Brittany into Normandy, he judg- 
ed that the time had arrived for taking his 
measures. He accordingly resolved to come to 
an open understanding with Harold in respect 
to his plans, and to seek his co-operation. 

He introduced the subject, the historians say, 
one day as they were riding along homeward 
from their excursion, and had been for some 
time talking familiarly on the way, relating 
tales to one another of wars, battles, sieges, 
and hair-breadth escapes, and other such ad- 
ventures as formed, generally, the subjects of 
narrative conversation in those days. At length 
William, finding Harold, as he judged, in a fa- 
vorable mood for such a communication, intro- 
duced the subject of the English realm and the 

A.D.1064.] King Harold. 153 

William makes known to Harold his claims to the English crown. 

approaching demise of the crown. He told him, 
confidentially, that there had been an arrange- 
ment between him, William, and King Ed- 
ward, for some time, that Edward was to adopt 
him as his successor. William told Harold, 
moreover, that he should rely a great deal on 
his co-operation and assistance in getting peace- 
able possession of the kingdom, and promised to 
bestow upon him the very highest rewards and 
honors in return if he would give him his aid. 
The only rival claimant, William said, was the 
young child Edgar, and he had no friends, no 
party, no military forces, and no means what- 
ever for maintaining his pretensions. On the 
other hand, he, William, and Harold, had obvi- 
ously all the power in their own hands, and if 
they could only co-operate together on a com- 
mon understanding, they would be sure to have 
the power and the honors of the English realm 
entirely at their disposal. 

Harold listened to all these suggestions, and 
pretended to be interested and pleased. He was, 
in reality, interested, but he was not pleased. 
He wished to secure the kingdom for himself, 
not merely to obtain a share, however large, of 
its power and its honors as the subject of an- 
other. He was, however, too wary to evince 

154 William the Conqueror. 

Harold's dissimulation. William's precautions. 

his displeasure. On the contrary, he assented 
to the plan, professed to enter into it with all 
his heart, and expressed his readiness to com- 
mence, immediately, the necessary preliminary 
measures for carrying it into execution. "Will- 
iam was much gratified with the successful re- 
sult of his negotiation, and the two chieftains 
rode home to William's palace in Normandy, 
banded together, apparently, by very strong 
ties. In secret, however, Harold w 7 as resolving 
to effect his departure from Normandy as soon 
as possible, and to make immediate and most 
effectual measures for securing the kingdom of 
England to himself, without any regard to the 
promises that he had made to William. 

Nor must it be supposed that William him- 
self placed any positive reliance on mere prom- 
ises from Harold. He immediately began to 
form plans for binding him to the performance 
of his stipulations, by the modes then commonly 
employed for securing the fulfillment of cove- 
nants made among princes. These methods 
w r ere three — intermarriages, the giving of hos- 
tages, and solemn oaths. 

William proposed two marriages as means 
of strengthening the alliance between himself 
and Harold. Harold was to give to William 

A.D. 1064.] King Harold. 155 

The bctrothment. William retains a hostage. 

one of his daughters, that William might marry 
her to one of his Norman chieftains. This 
would be, of course, placing her in William's 
power, and making her a hostage all but in 
name. Harold, however, consented. The sec- 
ond marriage proposed was between William's 
daughter and Harold himself ; but as his daugh- 
ter was a child of only seven years of age, it 
could only be a betrothment that could take 
place at that time. Harold acceded to this 
proposal too, and arrangements were made for 
having the faith of the parties pledged to one 
another in the most solemn manner. A great 
assembly of all the knights, nobles, and ladies 
of the court was convened, and the ceremony 
of pledging the troth between the fierce warrior 
and the gentle and wondering child was per- 
formed with as much pomp and parade as if it 
had been an actual wedding. The name of the 
girl was Adela. 

In respect to hostages, William determined to 
detain one of those whom Harold, as will be rec- 
ollected, had come into Normandy to recover. 
He tdd him, therefore, that he might take with 
him his nephew Hacune, but that Ulnoth, his 
brother, should remain, and William would 
bring him over himself when he came to take 

156 William the Conqueror. 

Harold's apparent acquiescence. The public oath. 

possession of the kingdom. Harold was ex- 
tremely unwilling to leave his brother thus in 
"William's power ; but as he knew very well that 
his being allowed to return to England himself 
would depend upon his not evincing any reluc- 
tance to giving William security, or manifest- 
ing any other indication that he was not intend- 
ing to keep his plighted faith, he readily con- 
sented, and it was thus settled that Ulnoth 
should remain. 

Finally, in order to hold Harold to the fulfill- 
ment of his promises by every possible form of 
obligation, William proposed that he should 
take a public and solemn oath, in the presence 
of a large assembly of all the great potentates 
and chieftains of the realm, by which he should 
bind himself, under the most awful sanctions, to 
keep his word. Harold made no objection to 
this either. He considered himself as, in fact, 
in duress, and his actions as not free. He was 
in. William's power, and was influenced in all 
he did by a desire to escape from Normandy, 
and once more recover his liberty. He accord- 
ingly decided, in his own mind, that whatever 
oaths he might take he should afterward con- 
sider as forced upon him, and consequently as 
null and void, and was ready, therefore, to take 
any that William might propose. 

AD. 1064.] King Harold. 157 

The great assembly of knights and nobles. The threefold oath. 

The great assembly was accordingly conven- 
ed. In the middle of the council hall there was 
placed a great chair of state, which was covered 
with a cloth of gold. Upon this cloth, and rais- 
ed considerably above the seat, was the missal, 
that is, the book of service of the Catholic 
Church, written on parchment and splendidly 
illuminated. The book was open at a passage 
from one of the Evangelists — the Evangelists 
being a portion of the Holy Scriptures which 
was, in those days, supposed to invest an oath 
with the most solemn sanctions. 

Harold felt some slight misgivings as he ad* 
vanced in the midst of such an imposing scene 
as the great assembly of knights and ladies pre- 
sented in the council hall, to repeat his prom- 
ises in the very presence of Grod, and to impre- 
cate the retributive curses of the Almighty on 
the violation of them, which he was deliberately 
and fully determined to incur. He had, how- 
ever, gone too far to retreat now. He advanc- 
ed, therefore, to the open missal, laid his hand 
upon the book, and, repeating the words which 
William dictated to him from his throne, he 
took the threefold oath required, namely, to 
aid William to the utmost of his power in his 
attempt to secure the succession to the English 

158 "William the Conqueror. 

William's precaution. The sacred relics. 

crown, to marry "William's daughter Adela as 
soon as she should arrive at a suitable age, and 
to send over forthwith from England his own 
daughter, that she might be espoused to one of 
William's nobles. 

As soon as the oath was thus taken, William 
caused the missal and the cloth of gold to be re- 
moved, and there appeared beneath it, on the 
chair of state, a chest, containing the sacred rel- 
ics of the Church, which William had secretly 
collected from the abbeys and monasteries of 
his dominions, and placed in this concealment, 
that, without Harold's being conscious of it, 
their dreadful sanction might be added to that 
which the Holy Evangelists imposed. These 
relics were fragments of bones set in caskets 
and frames, and portions of blood — relics, as the 
monks alleged, of apostles or of the Savior — and 
small pieces of w r ood, similarly preserved, which 
had been portions of the cross of Christ or of 
his thorny crown. These things w 7 ere treasured 
up with great solemnity in the monastic estab- 
lishments and in the churches of these early 
times, and were regarded with a veneration and 
awe, of which it is almost beyond our power 
even to conceive. Harold trembled when he 
saw what he had unwittingly done. He was 

A.D. 1064] King Harold. 159 

Harold's departure. His measures to secure the throne. 

terrified to think how much more dreadful was 
the force of the imprecations that he had utter- 
ed than he had imagined while uttering them. 
But it was too late to undo what he had done. 
The assemhly was finally dismissed. William 
thought he had the conscience of his new ally 
firmly secured, and Harold began to prepare for 
leaving Normandy. 

He continued on excellent terms with Will- 
iam until his departure. William accompanied 
him to the sea-shore when the time of his em- 
barkation arrived, and dismissed him at last 
with many, farewell honors, and a profusion of 
presents. Harold set sail, and, crossing the 
Channel in safety, he landed in England. 

He commenced immediately an energetic sys- 
tem of measures to strengthen his own cause, 
and prepare the way for his own accession. He 
organized his party, collected arms and muni- 
tions of war, and did all that he could to ingrati- 
ate himself with the most powerful and wealthy 
nobles. He sought the favor of the king, too, 
and endeavored to persuade him to discard Will- 
iam. The king was now old and infirm, and 
was growing more and more inert and gloomy 
as he advanced in age. His mind was occu- 
pied altogether in ecclesiastical rites and ob- 

160 William the Conqueror. 

Age and infirmities of Edward. Westminster. 

servances, or plunged in a torpid and lifeless 
melancholy, which made him averse to giving 
any thought to the course which the affairs of 
his kingdom were to take after he was gone. 
He did not care whether Harold or William 
took the crown when he laid it aside, provided 
they would allow him to die in peace. 

He had had, a few years previous to this time, 
a plan of making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, 
but had finally made an arrangement with the 
pope, allowing him to build a Cathedral church, 
to be dedicated to St. Peter, a few miles west 
of London, in lieu of his pilgrimage. There 
was already a Cathedral church or minster in 
the heart of London which was dedicated to St. 
Paul. The new one was afterward often called, 
to distinguish it from the other, the ivest min- 
ster, which designation, Westminster, became 
afterward its regular name. It was on this spot, 
where Westminster Abbey now stands, that 
Edward's church w r as to be built. It was just 
completed at the time of w T hich we are speak- 
ing, and the king was preparing for the dedi- 
cation of it. He summoned an assembly of all 
the prelates and great ecclesiastical dignitaries 
of the land to convene at London, in order to 
dedicate the new Cathedral. Before they were 

A.D. 1066.] KingHarold. 161 

Edward's death. The crown offered to Harold. 

ready for the service, the king was taken sud- 
denly sick. They placed him upon his couch 
in his palace chamber, where he lay, restless, 
and moaning in pain, and repeating incessantly, 
half in sleep and half in delirium, the gloomy 
and threatening texts of Scripture which seem- 
ed to haunt his mind. He was eager to have 
the dedication go on, and they hastened the 
service in order to gratify him by having it per- 
formed before he died. The next day he was 
obviously failing. Harold and his friends were 
very earnest to have the departing monarch de- 
clare in his favor before he died, and their coming 
and going, and their loud discussions, rude sol- 
diers as they were, disturbed his dying hours. 
He sent them word to choose whom they would 
for king, duke or earl, it was indifferent to him, 
and thus expired. 

Harold had made his arrangements so well, 
and had managed so effectually to secure the 
influence of all the powerful nobles of the king- 
dom, that they immediately convened and offer- 
ed him the crown. Edgar was in the court of 
Edward at the time, but he was too young to 
make any effort to advance his claims. He 
was, in fact, a foreigner, though in the English 
royal line. He had been brought up on the 

162 William the Conqueror. 

Harold's coronation. He knights Edgar. 

Continent of Europe, and could not even speak 
the English tongue. He acquiesced, therefore, 
without complaint, in these proceedings, and 
was even present as a consenting spectator on 
the occasion of Harold's coronation, which cere- 
mony was performed with great pomp and pa- 
rade, at St. Paul's, in London, very soon after 
King Edward's death. Harold rewarded Ed- 
gar for his complaisance and discretion hy con- 
ferring upon him the honor of knighthood im- 
mediately after the coronation, and in the church 
where the ceremony was performed. He also 
conferred similar distinctions and honors upon 
many other aspiring and ambitious men whom, 
he wished to secure to his side. He thus seem- 
ed to have secure and settled possession of the 

Previously to this time, Harold had married 
a young lady of England, a sister of two very 
powerful noblemen, and the richest heiress in 
the realm. This marriage greatly strengthen- 
ed his influence in England, and helped to pre- 
pare the way for his accession to the supreme 
power. The tidings of it, however, when they 
crossed the Channel and reached the ears of 
"William of Normandy, as the act was an open 
and deliberate violation of one of the covenants 

A.D.1066.] King Harold. 163 

Harold violates his plighted faith to William. 

which Harold had made with "William, con- 
vinced the latter that none of these covenants 
would be kept, and prepared him to expect all 
that afterward followed. 

164 William the Conqueror. 

Harold's brother Tostig. He brings intelligence of Harold's accession. 

Chapter VIM. 

The Preparations. 

r | \HE messenger who brought "William the 
-*- tidings of Harold's accession to the throne 
was a man named Tostig, Harold's brother. 
Though he was Harold's brother, he was still 
his bitterest enemy. Brothers are seldom friends 
in families where there is a crown to be con- 
tended for. There were, of course, no public 
modes of communicating intelligence in those 
days, and Tostig had learned the facts of Ed- 
ward's death and Harold's coronation through 
spies which he had stationed at certain points 
on the coast. He was himself, at that time, 
on the Continent. He rode with all speed to 
Rouen to communicate the news to William, 
eager to incite him to commence hostilities 
against his brother. 

When Tostig arrived at Rouen, William was 
in a park which lay in the vicinity of the city, 
trying a new bow that had been recently made 
for him. William was a man of prodigious 
muscular strength, and they gave him the credit 

A.D. 1066.] The Preparations. 167 

William's strength and dexterity. His surprise. 

of being able to use easily a bow which nobody- 
else could bend. A part of this credit was 
doubtless due to the etiquette which, in royal 
palaces and grounds, leads all sensible courtiers 
to take good care never to succeed in attempts 
to excel the king. But, notwithstanding this 
consideration, there is no doubt that the duke 
really merited a great portion of the commen- 
dation that he received for his strength and dex- 
terity in the use of the bow. It was a weapon 
in which he took great interest. A new one 
had been made for him, of great elasticity and 
strength, and he had gone out into his park, 
with his officers, to try its powers, when Tostig 
arrived. Tostig followed him to the place, and 
there advancing to his side, communicated the 
tidings to him privately. 

William was greatly moved by the intelli- 
gence. His arrow dropped upon the ground. 
He gave the bow to an attendant. He stood 
for a time speechless, tying and untying the 
cordon of his cloak in his abstraction. Present- 
ly he began slowly to move away from the 
place, and to return toward the city. His at- 
tendants followed him in silence, wondering 
what the exciting tidings could be which had 
produced so sudden and powerful an effect. 

168 William the Conqueror. 

Fitzosborne. His interview with William. 

William went into the castle hall, and walk- 
ed to and fro a long time, thoughtful, and evi- 
dently agitated. His attendants waited in si- 
lence, afraid to speak to him. Rumors began 
at length to circulate among them in respect to 
the nature of the intelligence which had been 
received. At length a great officer of state, 
named Fitzosborne, arrived at the castle. As 
he passed through the court-yard and gates, the 
attendants and the people, knowing that he pos- 
sessed in a great degree the confidence of his 
sovereign, asked him what the tidings were that 
had made such an impression. " I know noth- 
ing certain about it," said he, " but I will soon 
learn." So saying, he advanced toward Will- 
iam, and accosted him by saying, " Why should 
you conceal from us your news ? It is report- 
ed in the city that the King of England is dead, 
and that Harold has violated his oaths to you, 
and has seized the kingdom. Is that true ?" 

William acknowledged that that was the in- 
telligence by which he had been so vexed and 
chagrined. Fitzosborne urged the duke not to 
allow such events to depress or dispirit him. 
" As for the death of Edward," said he, "that 
is an event past and sure, and can not be re- 
called; but Harold's usurpation and treachery 

A.D. 1066.] The Preparations. 169 

The great council of state. The embassy to Harold. 

admits of a very easy remedy. You have the 
right to the throne, and you have the soldiers 
necessary to enforce that right. Undertake the 
enterprise boldly. You will be sure to succeed." 

"William revolved the subject in his mind for 
a few days, during which the exasperation and 
anger which the first receipt of the intelligence 
had produced upon him was succeeded by calm 
but indignant deliberation, in respect to the 
course which he should pursue. He concluded 
to call a great council of state, and to lay the 
case before them — not for the purpose of ob- 
taining their advice, but to call their attention 
to the crisis in a formal and solemn manner, 
and to prepare them to act in concert in the 
subsequent measures to be pursued. The re- 
sult of the deliberations of this council, guided, 
doubtless, by William's own designs, was, that 
the first step should be to send an embassy to 
Harold to demand of him the fulfillment of his 

The messenger was accordingly dispatched. 
He proceeded to London, and laid before Harold 
the communication with which he had been in- 
trusted. This communication recounted the 
three promises which Harold had made, name- 
ly, to send his daughter to Normandy to be 

170 William the Conqueror. 

Harold reminded of his promises. His replies. 

married to one of William's generals ; to marry 
William's daughter himself; and to maintain 
William's claims to the English crown on the 
death of Edward. He was to remind Harold, 
also, of the solemnity with which he had bound 
himself to fulfill these obligations, by oaths tak- 
en in the presence of the most sacred relics of 
the Church, and in the most public and deliber- 
ate manner. 
Harold replied, 

1. That as to sending over his daughter to be 
married to one of William's generals, he could 
not do it, for his daughter was dead. He pre- 
sumed, he said, that William did not wish him 
to send the corpse. 

2. In respect to marrying William's daughter, 
to whom he had been affianced in Normandy, 
he was sorry to say that that was also out of 
his power, as he could not take a foreign wife 
without the consent of his people, which he was 
confident would never be given ; besides, he 
was already married, he said, to a Saxon lady 
of his own dominions. 

3. In regard to the kingdom : it did not de- 
pend upon him, he said, to decide who should 
rule over England as Edward's successor, but 
upon the will of Edward himself, and upon the 

A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 171 

Return of the messenger. William prepares for war. 

English people. The English barons and no- 
bles had decided, with Edward's concurrence, 
that he, Harold, was their legitimate and proper 
sovereign, and that it was not for him to con- 
trovert their will. However much he might be 
disposed to comply with "William's wishes, and 
to keep his promise, it was plain that it was out 
of his power, for in promising him the English 
crown, he had promised what did not belong to 
him to give. 

4. As to his oaths, he said that, notwith- 
standing the secret presence of the sacred relics 
under the cloth of gold, he considered them as 
of no binding force upon his conscience, for he 
was constrained to take them as the only means 
of escaping from the duress in which he w T as 
virtually held in Normandy. Promises, and 
oaths even, when extorted by necessity, were 
null and void. 

The messenger returned to Normandy with 
these replies, and William immediately began 
to prepare for war. 

His first measure was to call a council of his 
most confidential friends and advisers, and to 
lay the subject before them. They cordially 
approved of the plan of an invasion of England, 
and promised to co-operate in the accomplish- 
ment of it to the utmost of their power. 

172 "William the Conqueror. 

William calls a general council. Want of funds. 

The next step was to call a general council 
of all the chieftains and nobles of the land, and 
also the notables, as they were called, or prin- 
cipal officers and municipal authorities of the 
towns. The main point of interest for the con- 
sideration of this assembly was, whether the 
country would submit to the necessary taxation 
for raising the necessary funds. William had 
ample power, as duke, to decide upon the in- 
vasion and to undertake it. He could also, 
without much difficulty, raise the necessary 
number of men ; for every baron in his realm 
was bound, by the feudal conditions on which 
he held his land, to furnish his quota of men 
for any military enterprise in which his sover- 
eign might see fit to engage. But for so dis- 
tant and vast an undertaking as this, William 
needed a much larger supply of funds than 
were usually required in the wars of those days. 
For raising such large supplies, the political in- 
stitutions of the Middle Ages had not made any 
adequate provision. Governments then had no 
power of taxation, like that so freely exercised 
in modern times ; and even now, taxes in 
France and England take the form of grants 
from the people to the kings. And as to the 
contrivance, so exceedingly ingenious, by which 

A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 173 

Means of raising money. Adverse views. 

inexhaustible resources are opened to govern- 
ments at the present day — that is, the plan of 
borrowing the money, and leaving posterity to 
pay or repudiate the debt, as they please, no 
minister of finance had, in William's day, been 
brilliant enough to discover it. Thus each 
ruler had to rely, then, mainly on the rents and 
income from his own lands, and other private 
resources, for the comparatively small amount 
of money that he needed in his brief campaigns. 
But now William perceived that ships must be 
built and equipped, and great stores of provisions 
accumulated, and arms and munitions of war 
provided, all which would require a considera- 
ble outlay ; and how was this money to be ob- 
tained ? 

The general assembly which he convened 
were greatly distracted by the discussion of the 
question. The quiet and peaceful citizens who 
inhabited the towns, the artisans and trades- 
men, who wished for nothing but to be allowed 
to go on in their industrial pursuits in peace, 
were opposed to the whole project. They 
thought it unreasonable and absurd that they 
should be required to contribute from their earn- 
ings to enable their lord and master to go off on 
so distant and desperate an undertaking, from 

174 William the Conqueror. 

which, even if successful, they could derive no 
benefit whatever. Many of the barons, too, 
were opposed to the scheme. They thonght it 
very likely to end in disaster and defeat; and 
they denied that their feudal obligation to fur- 
nish men for their sovereign's wars was binding 
to the extent of requiring them to go out of the 
country, and beyond the sea. to prosecute his 
claims to the throne of another kingdom. 

Others, on the other hand, among the mem- 
bers of William's assembly, were strongly dis- 
posed to favor the plan. They were more ar- 
dent or more courageous than the rest, or per- 
haps their position and circumstances were 
such that they had more to hope from the suc- 
cess of the enterprise than they, or less to fear 
from its failure. Thus there was great divers- 
ity of opinion : and as the parliamentary system 
of rules, by which a body of turbulent men. in 
modern times, are kept in some semblance of 
organization and order during a debate, had not 
then been developed, the meeti n g of these Nor- 
man deliberators was. for a time, a scene of up- 
roar and confusion. The members gathered in 
groups, each speaker getting around him as 
many as he could obtain to listen to his ha- 
rangue ; the more quiet and passive portion of 

AJ). 1066.] The Preparations. 175 


the assembly moving to and fro. from group to 
group, as they were attracted by the earnest- 
ness and eloquence of the different speakers, or 
by their approval of the sentiments which they 
heard them expressing. The scene, in fact, 
was like that presented in exciting times by a 
political caucus in America, before it is called 
I . 1 2er by the chairman. 

Fitzosborne, the confidential friend and coun- 
selor, who has already been mentioned as the 
one who ventured to accost the duke at the 
time when the tidings of Edward's death and 
of Harold's accession first reached him, now 
seeing that any thing like definite and harmo- 
nious action on the part of this tumultuous as- 
sembly was out of the question, went to the 
duke, and proposed to him to give up the as- 
sembly as such, and make the best terms and 
arrangements that he could with the constitu- 
ent elements of it, individually and severally. 
He would himself, he said, furnish forty ships. 
manned, equipped, and provisioned ; and he rec- 
ommended to the duke to call each of the others 
into his presence, and ask them what they were 
individually willing to do. The duke adopted 
this plan, and it was wonderfully successful. 
Those who were first invited made large offers. 

176 William the Conqueror. 

Success of Fitzosborne's plan. Supplies flow in liberally. 

and their offers were immediately registered in 
form by the proper officers. Each one who fol- 
lowed was emulous of the example of those who 
had preceded him, and desirous of evincing as 
much zeal and generosity as they. Then, he- 
sides, the duke received these vassals with so 
much condescension and urbanity, and treated 
them with so much consideration and respect, 
as greatly to flatter their vanity, and raise them 
in their own estimation, by exalting their ideas 
of the importance of the services which they 
could render in carrying so vast an enterprise 
to a successful result. In a word, the tide turn- 
ed like a flood in favor of granting liberal sup- 
plies. The nobles and knights promised freely 
men, money, ships, arms, provisions — every 
thing, in short, that was required ; and when 
the work of receiving and registering the offers 
was completed, and the officers summed up the 
aggregate amount, William found, to his ex- 
treme satisfaction, that his wants were abun- 
dantly supplied. 

There was another very important point, 
which "William adopted immediate measures to 
secure, and that was obtaining the Pope V ap- 
proval of his intended expedition. The moral 
influence of having the Roman pontiff on his 

A.D. 1066.] The Preparations. 177 

Embassage to the pope. Its success. 

side, would, he knew, be of incalculable advant- 
age to him. He sent an embassage, according- 
ly, to Rome, to lay the whole subject before his 
holiness, and to pray that the pope would de- 
clare that he was justly entitled to the English 
crown, and authorize him to proceed and take 
possession of it by force of arms. Lanfranc was 
the messenger whom he employed — the same 
Lanfranc who had been so successful, some 
years before, in the negotiations at Rome con- 
nected with the confirmation of William and 
Matilda's marriage. 

Lanfranc was equally successful now. The 
pope, after examining William's claims, pro- 
nounced them valid. He decided that William 
was entitled to the rank and honors of King of 
England. He caused a formal diploma to be 
made out to this effect. The diploma was ele- 
gantly executed, signed with the cross, accord- 
ing to the pontifical custom, and sealed with a 
round leaden seal.* 

It was, in fact, very natural that the Roman 
authorities should take a favorable view of Will- 
iam's enterprise, and feel an interest in its suc- 

* The Latin name for such a seal was bulla. It is on ac- 
count of this sort of seal, which is customarily affixed to 
them, that papal edicts have received the name of bulls. 


178 William the Conqueror. 

Reasons why the pope favored William's claims. 

cess, as it was undoubtedly for the interest of 
the Church that "William, rather than Harold, 
should reign over England, as the accession of 
William would bring the English realm far 
more fully under the influence of the Roman 
Church. William had always been very sub- 
missive to the pontifical authority, as was shown 
in his conduct in respect to the question of his 
marriage. He himself, and also Matilda his 
wife, had always taken a warm interest in the 
welfare and prosperity of the abbeys, the mon- 
asteries, the churches, and the other religious 
establishments of the times. Then the very cir- 
cumstance that he sent his embassador to Rome 
to submit his claims to the pontiff's adjudica- 
tion, while Harold did not do so, indicated a 
greater deference for the authority of the Church, 
and made it probable that he would be a far 
more obedient and submissive son of the Church, 
in his manner of ruling his realm, if he should 
succeed in gaining possession of it, than Har- 
old his rival. The pope and his counselors at 
Rome thought it proper to take all these things 
into the account in deciding between William 
and Harold, as they honestly believed, without 
doubt, that it was their first and highest duty to 
exalt and aggrandize, by every possible means, 

A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 179 

The banner and the ring. Excitement produced by their reception. 

the spiritual authority of the sacred institution 
over which they were called to preside. 

The pope and his cardinals, accordingly, es- 
poused William's cause very warmly. In ad- 
dition to the diploma which gave William for- 
mal authority to take possession of the English 
crown, the pope sent him a banner and a ring. 
The banner was of costly and elegant workman- 
ship ; its value, however, did not consist in its 
elegance or its cost, but in a solemn benediction 
which his holiness pronounced over it, by which 
it was rendered sacred and inviolable. The 
banner, thus blessed, was forwarded to William 
by Lanfranc with great care. 

It was accompanied by the ring. The ring 
was of gold, and it contained a diamond of great 
value. The gold and the diamond both, how- 
ever, served only as settings to preserve and 
honor something of far greater value than they. 
This choice treasure was a hair from the head 
of the Apostle Peter ! a sacred relic of miracu- 
lous virtue and of inestimable value. 

When the edict with its leaden seal, and the 
banner and the ring arrived in Normandy, they 
produced a great and universal excitement. To 
have bestowed upon the enterprise thus emphat- 
ically the solemn sanction of the great spiritual 

180 William the Conqueror. 

William's proclamations. Their effects. 

head of the Church, to whom the great mass of 
the people looked up with an awe and a rever- 
ence almost divine, was to seal indissolubly the 
rightfulness of the enterprise, and to insure its 
success. There was thenceforward no difficulty 
in procuring men or means. Every body was 
eager to share in the glory, and to obtain the 
rewards, of an enterprise thus commended by 
an authority duly commissioned to express, in 
all such cases, the judgment of Heaven. 

Finding that the current was thus fairly set- 
ting in his favor, William sent proclamations 
into all the countries surrounding Normandy, 
inviting knights, and soldiers, and adventurers 
of every degree to join him in his projected en- 
terprise. These proclamations awakened uni- 
versal attention. Great numbers of adventur- 
ous men determined to enter William's service. 
Horses, arms, and accoutrements were every 
w T here in great demand. The invasion of En- 
gland and the question of joining it were the 
universal topics of conversation. The roads 
were covered with knights and soldiers, some 
on horseback and alone, others in bands, large 
or small, all proceeding to Normandy to tender 
their services. William received them all, and 
made liberal promises to bestow rewards and 

AJ). 1066.] The Preparations. 181 

"William's promises. Naval preparations. 

honors upon them in England, in the event of 
his success. To some he offered pay in money ; 
to others, "booty ; to others, office and power. 
Every one had his price. Even the priests and 
dignitaries of the Church shared the general 
enthusiasm. One of them furnished a ship and 
twenty armed men, under an agreement to "be 
appointed bishop of a certain valuable English 
diocese when "William should be established on 
his throne. 

While all these movements were going on in 
the interior of the country, all the sea-ports and 
towns along the coast of Normandy presented a 
very busy scene of naval preparation. Naval 
architects were employed in great numbers in 
building and fitting out vessels. Some were 
constructed and furnished for the transportation 
of men, others for conveying provisions and mu- 
nitions of war ; and lighters and boats were 
built for ascending the rivers, and for aiding in 
landing troops upon shelving shores. Smiths 
and armorers were occupied incessantly in man- 
ufacturing spears, and swords, and coats of mail ; 
while vast numbers of laboring men and beasts 
of burden were employed in conveying arms 
and materials to and from the manufactories 
to the ships, and from one point of embarka- 
tion to another. 

182 William the Conqueror. 

Philip, king of France. William's visit to him. 

As soon as "William had put all these busy 
agencies thus in successful operation, he con- 
sidered that there was one more point which it 
was necessary for him to secure before finally 
embarking, and that was the co-operation and 
aid of the French king, whose name at this time 
was Philip. In his character of Duke of Nor- 
mandy the King of France was his liege lord, 
and he was bound to act, in some degree, under 
an acknowledgment of his superior authority. 
In his new capacity, that is, as King of En- 
gland, or, rather, as heir to the English kingdom, 
he was, of course, w T holly independent of Philip, 
and, consequently, not bound by any feudal ob- 
ligation to look to him at all. He thought it 
most prudent, however, to attempt, at least, to 
conciliate Philip's favor, and, accordingly, leav- 
ing his officers and his workmen to go on with 
the work of organizing his army and of build- 
ing and equipping the fleet, he set off, himself, 
on an expedition to the court of the French 
king. He thought it safer to undertake this 
delicate mission himself, rather than to intrust 
it to an embassador or deputy. 

He found Philip at his palace of St. Grer- 
main's, which was situated at a short distance 
from Paris. The duke assumed, in his inter- 

A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 183 

William's interview with Philip. Philip opposes his plans. 

view with the king, a very respectful and def- 
erential air and manner. Philip was a very 
young man, though haughty and vain. Will- 
iam was very much his superior, not only in 
age and experience, but in talents and charac- 
ter, and in personal renown. Still, he approach- 
ed the monarch with all the respectful observ- 
ance due from a vassal to his sovereign, made 
known his plans, and asked for Philip's appro- 
bation and aid. He was willing, he said, in 
case that aid was afforded him, to hold his king- 
dom of England, as he had done the duchy 
of Normandy, as a dependency of the French 

Philip seemed not at all disposed to look upon 
the project with favor. He asked "William who 
was going to take care of his duchy while he 
was running off after a kingdom. William re- 
plied, at first, that that was a subject which he 
did not think his neighbors need concern them- 
selves about. Then thinking, on reflection, 
that a more respectful answer would be more 
politic, under the circumstances of the case, he 
added, that he was providentially blessed with 
a prudent wife and loving subjects, and that he 
thought he might safely leave his domestic af- 
fairs in their hands until he should return. 

184 William the Conqueror. 

Council of nobles. Result of their deliberations. 

Philip still opposed the plan. It was Quixotic, 
he said, and dangerous. He strongly advised 
"William to abandon the scheme, and be content 
with his present possessions. Such desperate 
schemes of ambition as those he was contem- 
plating would only involve him in ruin. 

Before absolutely deciding the case, however, 
Philip called a council of his great nobles and 
officers of state, and laid William's proposals 
before them. The result of their deliberations 
was to confirm Philip in his first decision. They 
said that the rendering to William the aid 
which he desired would involve great expense, 
and be attended with great danger ; and as to 
William's promises to hold England as a vassal 
of the King of France, they had no faith in the 
performance of them. It had been very diffi- 
cult, they said, for many years, for the kings of 
France to maintain any effectual authority over 
the dukes of Normandy, and when once master 
of so distant and powerful a realm as England, 
all control over them would be sundered forever. 

Philip then gave William his final answer hi 
accordance with these counsels. The answer 
was received, on William's part, with strong feel- 
ings of disappointment and displeasure. Philip 
conducted the duke to his retinue when the 

A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 185 

William's return. Final preparations. 

hour of departure arrived, in order to soothe, as 
far as possible, his irritated feelings, by dismiss- 
ing him from his court with marks of his honor- 
able consideration and regard. William, how- 
ever, was not in a mood to be pleased. He told 
Philip, on taking leave of him, that he was 
losing the most powerful vassal that any lord 
sovereign ever had, by the course which he had 
decided to pursue. " I would have held the 
whole realm of England as a part of your do- 
minions, acknowledging you as sovereign over 
all, if you had consented to render me your aid, 
but I will not do it since you refuse. I shall 
feel bound to repay only those who assist me." 
"William returned to Normandy, where all 
the preparations for the expedition had been 
going on with great vigor during his absence, 
and proceeded to make arrangements for the 
last great measure which it was necessary to 
take previous to his departure ; that was, the 
regular constitution of a government to rule in 
Normandy while he should be gone. He de- 
termined to leave the supreme power in the 
hands of his wife Matilda, appointing, at the 
same time, a number of civil and military offi- 
cers as a council of regency, who were to assist 
her in her deliberations by giving her informa- 

186 William the Conqueror. 

Matilda made duchess regent. William's motives. 

tion and advice, and to manage, under her di- 
rection, the different departments of the govern- 
ment. Her title was " Duchess Regent," and 
she was installed into her office in a public and 
solemn manner, at a great assembly of the es- 
tates of the realm. At the close of the cere- 
monies, after "William had given Matilda his 
charge, he closed his address by adding, " And 
do not let us fail to enjoy the benefit of your 
prayers, and those of all the ladies of your court, 
that the blessing of Grod may attend us, and 
secure the success of our expedition." 

We are not necessarily to suppose, as we 
might at first be strongly inclined to do, that 
there was any special hypocrisy and pretense 
in William's thus professing to rely on the pro- 
tection of Heaven in the personal and political 
dangers which he was about to incur. It is 
probable that he honestly believed that the in- 
heritance of the English crown w 7 as his right, 
and, that being the case, that a vigorous and 
manly effort to enforce his right was a solemn 
duty. In the present age of the world, now 
that there are so many countries in which in- 
telligence, industry, and love of order are so ex- 
tensively diffused that the mass of the communi- 
ty are capable of organizing and administering 

A.D. 1066.] The Preparations. 187 

Republican sentiments. Hereditary sovereigns. 

a government themselves, republicans are apt 
to look upon hereditary sovereigns as despots, 
ruling only for the purpose of promoting their 
own aggrandizement, and the ends of an un- 
holy and selfish ambition. That there have 
been a great many such despots no one can 
deny ; but then, on the other hand, there have 
heeu. many others who have acted, in a greater 
or less degree, under the influence of principles 
of duty in their political career. They have 
honestly believed that the vast power with 
which, in coming forward into life, they have 
found themselves invested, without, in most 
cases, any agency of their own, was a trust im- 
posed upon them by divine Providence, which 
could not innocently be laid aside ; that on them 
devolved the protection of the communities over 
which they ruled from external hostility, and 
the preservation of peace and order within, and 
the promotion of the general industry and wel- 
fare, as an imperious and solemn duty ; and 
they have devoted their lives to the performance 
of this duty, with the usual mixture, it is true, 
of ambition and selfishness, but still, after all, 
with as much conscientiousness and honesty as 
the mass of men in the humbler walks of life 
evince in performing theirs. "William of Nor- 

188 William the Conqueror. 

Enthusiasm of the people. The two-tailed comet. 

mandy appears to have been one of this latter 
class ; and in obeying the dictates of his ambi- 
tion in seeking to gain possession of the English 
crown, he no doubt considered himself as fulfill- 
ing the obligations of duty too. 

However this may be, he went on with his 
preparations in the most vigorous and prosper- 
ous manner. The whole country were enthusi- 
astic in the cause ; and their belief that the 
enterprise about to be undertaken had unques- 
tionably secured the favor of Heaven, was con- 
firmed by an extraordinary phenomenon which 
occurred just before the armament was ready 
to set sail. A comet appeared in the sky, 
which, as close observers declared, had a double 
tail. It was universally agreed that this por- 
tended that England and Normandy were about 
to be combined, and to form a double kingdom, 
which should exhibit to all mankind a wonder- 
ful spectacle of splendor. 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 189 

The River Dive. 


Chapter IX. 
Crossing the Channel. 

THE place for the final assembling of the 
fleet which was to convey the expedition 
across the Channel was the mouth of a small 
river called the Dive, which will be seen upon 
the following map, flowing from the neighbor- 
hood of the castle of Falaise northward into the 


190 William the Conqueror. 

Final assembling of the fleet. Brilliant and magnificent scene, 

sea. The grand gathering took place in the be- 
ginning of the month of September, in the year 
1066. This date, which marks the era of the 
Norman Conquest, is one of the dates which 
students of history fix indelibly in the memory. 

The gathering of the fleet in the estuary of 
the Dive, and the assembling of the troops on 
the beach along its shores, formed a very grand 
and imposing spectacle. The fleets of galleys, 
ships, boats, and barges covering the surface of 
the water — the long lines of tents under the 
cliffs on the land — the horsemen, splendidly 
mounted, and glittering with steel — the groups 
of soldiers, all busily engaged in transporting 
provisions and stores to and fro, or making the 
preliminary arrangements for the embarkation 
— the thousands of spectators who came and 
went incessantly, 'and the duke himself, gor- 
geously dressed, and mounted on his war-horse 7 
with the guards and officers that attended him 
— these, and the various other elements of mar- 
tial parade and display usually witnessed on 
such occasions, conspired to produce a very gay 
and brilliant, as well as magnificent scene. 

Of course, the assembling of so large a force 
of men and of vessels, and the various prepara- 
tions for the embarkation, consumed some time, 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 191 

Equinoctial gales. The expedition detained by them. 

and when at length all was ready — which was 
early in September — the equinoctial gales came 
on, and it was found impossible to leave the 
port. There was, in fact, a continuance of 
heavy winds and seas, and stormy skies, for sev- 
eral weeks. Short intervals, from time to time, 
occurred, when the clouds would break away, 
and the sun appear ; but these intervals did not 
liberate the fleet from its confinement, for they 
were not long enough in duration to allow the 
sea to go down. The surf continued to come 
rolling and thundering in upon the shore, and 
over the sand-bars at the mouth of the river, 
making destruction the almost inevitable desti- 
ny of any ship which should undertake to brave 
its fury. The state of the skies gradually rob- 
bed the scene of the gay and brilliant colors 
which first it wore. The vessels furled their 
sails, and drew in their banners, and rode at 
anchor, presenting their heads doggedly to the 
storm. The men on the shore sought shelter 
in their tents. The spectators retired to their 
homes, while the duke and his officers watched 
the scudding clouds in the sky, day after day, 
with great and increasing anxiety. 

In fact, "William had very serious cause for 
apprehension in respect to the effect which this 

192 William the Conqueror. 

Injurious effects of the storm. Discouragement of the men. 

long-continued storm was to have on the suc- 
cess of his enterprise. The delay was a very 
serious consideration in itself, for the winter 
would soon be drawing near. In one month 
more it would seem to be out of the question 
for such a vast armament to cross the Channel 
at all. Then, when men are embarking in 
such dark and hazardous undertakings as that 
in which William was now engaged, their spir- 
its and their energy rise and sink in great fluc- 
tuations, under the influence of very slight and 
inadequate causes ; and nothing has greater in- 
fluence over them at such times than the aspect 
of the skies. William found that the ardor and 
enthusiasm of his army were fast disappearing 
under the effects of chilling winds and driving 
rain. The feelings of discontent and depression 
which the frowning expression of the heavens 
awakened in their minds, were deepened and 
spread by the influence of sympathy. The 
men had nothing to do, during the long and 
dreary hours of the day, but to anticipate hard- 
ships and dangers, and to entertain one another, 
as they watched the clouds driving along the 
cliffs, and the rolling of the surges in the offing, 
with anticipations of shipwrecks, battles, and 
defeats, and all the other gloomy forebodings 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 193 

Fears and forebodings. Some of the vessels wrecked. 

which haunt the imagination of a discouraged 
and discontented soldier. 

Nor were these ideas of wrecks and destruc- 
tion wholly imaginary. Although the hody of 
the fleet remained in the river, where it was 
sheltered from the winds, yet there were many 
cases of single ships that were from time to 
time exposed to them. These were detached 
vessels coming in late to the rendezvous, or 
small squadrons sent out to some neighboring 
port under some necessity connected with the 
preparations, or strong galleys, whose com- 
manders, more bold than the rest, were willing, 
in cases not of absolute necessity, to brave the 
danger. Many of these vessels were wrecked. 
The fragments of them, with the bodies of the 
drowned mariners, were driven to the shore. 
The ghastly spectacles presented by these dead 
bodies, swollen and mangled, and half buried 
in the sand, as if the sea had been endeavoring 
to hide the mischief it had done, shocked and 
terrified the spectators who saw them. "Will- 
iam gave orders to have all these bodies gath- 
ered up and interred secretly, as fast as they 
were found ; still, exaggerated rumors of the 
number and magnitude of these disasters were 
circulated in the camp, and the discontent and 

194 William the Conqueror. 

Favorable change. The fleet puts to sea. 

apprehensions grew every day more and more 

"William resolved that he must put to sea at 
the very first possible opportunity. The favor- 
able occasion was not long wanting. The wind 
changed. The storm appeared to cease. A 
breeze sprang up from the south, which headed 
back the surges from the French shore. Will- 
iam gave orders to embark. The tents were 
struck. The bas^asre of the soldiers was sent 


on board the transport vessels. The men them- 
selves, crowded into great flat-bottomed boats, 
passed in masses to the ships from the shore. 
The spectators reappeared, and covered the 
cliffs and promontories near, to witness the 
final scene. The sails were hoisted, and the 
vast armament moved out upon the sea. 

The appearance of a favorable change in 
the weather proved fallacious after all, for the 
clouds and storm returned, and after being driv- 
en, in apprehension and danger, about a hund- 
red miles to the northeast along the coast, the 
fleet was compelled to seek refuge again in a 
harbor. The port which received them was St. 
Yalery, near Dieppe. The duke was greatly 
disappointed at being obliged thus again to take 
the land. Still, the attempt to advance had 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 195 

Various delays. Its effects. 

not been a labor wholly lost ; for as the French 
coast here trends to the northward, they had 
been gradually narrowing the channel as they 
proceeded, and were, in fact, so far on the way 
toward the English shores. Then there were, 
besides, some reasons for touching here, before 
the final departure, to receive some last re-en- 
forcements and supplies. "William had also one 
more opportunity of communicating with his 
capital and with Matilda. 

These delays, disastrous as they seemed to 
be, and ominous of evil, were nevertheless at- 
tended with one good effect, of which, however, 
William at the time was not aware. They led 
Harold, in England, to imagine that the enter- 
prise was abandoned, and so put him off his 
guard. There were in those days, as has al- 
ready been remarked, no regular and public 
modes of intercommunication, by which intelli- 
gence of important movements and events was 
spread every where, as now, with promptness 
and certainty. Governments were obliged, ac- 
cordingly, to rely for information, in respect to 
what their enemies were doing, on rumors, or 
on the reports of spies. Rumors had gone to 
England in August that William was medita- 
ting an invasion, and Harold had made some 

196 William the Conqueror. 

Harold's want of information. He withdraws his troops. 

extensive preparations to meet and oppose him ; 
"but, finding that he did not come — that week 
after week of September passed away, and no 
signs of an enemy appeared, and gaining no 
certain information of the causes of the delay, 
he concluded that the enterprise was abandon- 
ed, or else, perhaps, postponed to the ensuing 
spring. Accordingly, as the winter was com- 
ing on, he deemed it best to commence his prep- 
arations for sending his troops to their winter 
quarters. He disbanded some of them, and 
sent others away, distributing them in various 
castles and fortified towns, where they would 
be sheltered from the rigors of the season, and 
saved from the exposure and hardships of the 
camp, and yet, at the same time, remain with- 
in reach of a summons in case of any sudden 
emergency which might call for them. They 
were soon summoned, though not, in the first 
instance, to meet Harold, as will presently ap- 

"While adopting these measures, however, 
which he thought the comfort and safety of his 
army required, Harold did not relax his vigi- 
lance in watching, as well as he could, the de- 
signs and movements of his enemy. He kept 
his secret agents on the southern coast, ordering 

A. D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 197 

Harold's vigilance. He sends spies into Normandy. 

them to observe closely every thing that trans- 
pired, and to gather and send to him every item 
of intelligence which should find its way by any 
means across the Channel. Of course, Will- 
iam would do all in his power to intercept and 
cut off all communication, and he was, at this 
time, very much aided in these efforts by the 
prevalence of the storms, which made it almost 
impossible for the fishing and trading vessels 
of the coast to venture out to sea, or attempt 
to cross the Channel. The agents of Harold, 
therefore, on the southern coast of England, 
found that they could obtain but very little in- 

At length the king, unwilling to remain any 
longer so entirely in the dark, resolved on send- 
ing some messengers across the sea into Nor- 
mandy itself, to learn positively what the true 
state of the case might be. Messengers going 
thus secretly into the enemy's territory, or into 
the enemy's camp, become, by so doing, in mar- 
tial law, spies, and incur, if they are taken, the 
penalty of death. The undertaking, therefore, 
is extremely hazardous ; and as the death which 
is inflicted in cases of detection is an ignomin- 
ious one — spies being hung, not shot — most 
men are very averse to encountering the dan- 

198 "William the Conqueror. 

Harold's spies. They are detected, 

ger. Still, desperate characters are always to 
be found in camps and armies, who are ready 
to undertake it on being promised very extraor- 
dinary pay. 

Harold's spies contrived to make their way 
across the Channel, probably at some point far 
to the east of Normandy, where the passage is 
narrow. They then came along the shore, dis- 
guised as peasants of the country, and they ar- 
rived at St. Valery while "William's fleets were 
there. Here they began to make their observa- 
tions, scrutinizing every thing with close atten- 
tion and care, and yet studiously endeavoring 
to conceal their interest in what they saw. 
Notwithstanding all their vigilance, however, 
they were discovered, proved to be spies, and 
taken before William to receive their sentence. 

Instead of condemning them to death, which 
they undoubtedly supposed would be their inev- 
itable fate, "William ordered them to be set at 
liberty. " Go back," said he, " to King Har- 
old, and tell him he might have saved himself 
the expense of sending spies into Normandy to 
learn what I am preparing for him. He will 
soon know by other means — much sooner, in 
fact, than he imagines. Go and tell him from 
me that he may put himself, if he pleases, in 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 199 

William dismisses the spies. His confidence in his cause. 

the safest place he can find in all his dominions, 
and if he does not find my hand upon him be- 
fore the year is out, he never need fear me again 
as long as he lives." 

Nor was this expression of confidence in the 
success of the measures which he was takinsr 


a mere empty boast. William knew the pow- 
er of Harold, and he knew his own. The en- 
terprise in which he had embarked was not a 
rash adventure. It was a cool, deliberate, well- 
considered plan. It appeared doubtful and dan- 
gerous in the eyes of mankind, for to mere su- 
perficial observers it seemed simply an aggress- 
ive war waged by a duke of Normandy, the 
ruler of a comparatively small and insignificant 
province, against a king of England, the mon- 
arch of one of the greatest and most powerful 
realms in the world. "William, on the other 
hand, regarded it as an effort on the part of the 
rightful heir to a throne to dispossess a usurper. 
He felt confident of having the sympathy and 
co-operation of a great part of the community, 
even in England, the moment he could show 
them that he was able to maintain his rights ; 
and that he could show them that, by a very 
decisive demonstration, was evident, visibly, be- 
fore him, in the vast fleet which was riding at 

200 "William the Conqueror. 

Fears of William's officers. He reassures them. 

anchor in the harbor, and in the long lines of 
tents, filled with soldiery, which covered the 

On one occasion, when some of his officers 
were expressing apprehensions of Harold's pow- 
er, and their fears in respect to their being able 
successfully to cope with it, William replied, 
that the more formidable Harold's power should 
prove to be, the better he should be pleased, as 
the glory would be all the greater for them in 
having overcome it. "I have no objection," 
said he, "that you should entertain exalted 
ideas of his strength, though I wonder a little 
that you do not better appreciate our own. I 
need be under no concern lest he, at such a dis- 
tance, should learn too much, by his spies, about 
the force which I am bringing against him, 
when you, who are so near me, seem to know 
so little about it. But do not give yourselves 
any concern. Trust to the justice of your 
caus# and to my foresight. Perform your parts 
like men, and you will find that the result 
which I feel sure of, and you hope for, will cer- 
tainly be attained." 

The storm at length entirely cleared away, 
and the army and the fleet commenced their 
preparations for the final departure. In the 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 201 

Arrival of Matilda with the Mira. A present to William. 

midst of this closing scene, the attention of all 
the vast crowds assembled on "board the ships 
and on the shores was one morning attracted 
by a beautiful ship which came sailing into the 
harbor. It proved to be a large and splendid 
vessel which the Duchess Matilda had built, at 
her own expense, and was now bringing in, to 
offer to Tier husband as her parting gift. She 
was herself on board, with her officers and at- 
tendants, having come to witness her husband's 
departure, and to bid him farewell. Her arri- 
val, of course, under such circumstances, pro- 
duced universal excitement and enthusiasm. 
The ships in harbor and the shores resounded 
with acclamations as the new arrival came gal- 
lantly, in. 

Matilda's vessel was finely built and splen- 
didly decorated. The sails were of different 
colors, which gave it a very gay appearance. 
"Upon them were painted, in various places, the 
three lions, which was the device of the Nor- 
man ensign. At the bows of the ship w r as an 
effigy, or figure-head, representing William and 
Matilda's second son shooting with a bow. This 
was the accomplishment which, of all others, 
his father took most interest in seeing his little 
son acquire. The arrow was drawn nearly to 

202 William the Conqueror. 

The squadron puts to sea again. Its appearance. 

its head, indicating great strength in the little 
arms which were guiding it, and it was just 
ready to fly. The name of this vessel was the 
Mira. William made it his flag ship. He hoist- 
ed upon its mast head the consecrated banner 
which had been sent to him from Rome, and 
went on board accompanied by his officers and 
guards, and with great ceremony and parade. 

At length the squadron was ready to put to 
sea. At a given signal the sails were hoisted, 
and the whole fleet began to move slowly out 
of the harbor. There were four hundred ships 
of large size, if we may believe the chronicles 
of the times, and more than a thousand trans- 
ports. The decks of all these vessels were cov- 
ered with men ; banners were streaming from 
every mast and spar ; and every salient point 
of the shore was crowded with spectators. The 
sea was calm, the air serene, and the mighty 
cloud of canvas which whitened the surface of 
the water moved slowly on over the gentle swell 
of the waves, forming a spectacle which, as a 
picture merely for the eye, was magnificent and 
grand, and, when regarded in connection with 
the vast results to the human race which were 
to flow from the success of the enterprise, must 
have been considered sublime. 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 203 

Fleetness of the Mira. Leaves the fleet out of sight. 

The splendidly decorated ship which Matilda 
had presented to her husband proved itself, on 
trial, to be something more than a mere toy. 
It led the van at the commencement, of course ; 
and as all eyes watched its progress, it soon be- 
came evident that it was slowly gaining upon 
the rest of the squadron, so as continually to 
increase its distance from those that were fol- 
lowing it. "William, pleased with the success 
of its performance, ordered the sailing master 
to keep on, without regard to those who were 
behind ; and thus it happened that, when night 
came on, the fleet was at very considerable 
distance in rear of the flag ship. Of course, 
under these circumstances, the fleet disappear- 
ed from sight when the sun went down, but all 
expected that it would come into view again in 
the morning. When the morning came, how- 
ever, to the surprise and disappointment of ev- 
ery one on board the flag ship, no signs of the 
fleet were to be seen. The seamen, and the 
officers on the deck, gazed long and intently 
into the southern horizon as the increasing light 
of the morning brought it gradually into view, 
but there was not a speck to break its smooth 
and even line. 

They felt anxious and uneasy, but "William 

204 William the Conqueror. 

William's unconcern. Reappearance of the fleet. 

seemed to experience no concern. He ordered 
the sails to be furled, and then sent a man to 
the mast head to look out there. Nothing was 
to be seen. William, still apparently uncon- 
cerned, ordered breakfast to be prepared in a 
very sumptuous manner, loading the tables 
with wine and other delicacies, that the minds 
of all on board might be cheered by the exhila- 
rating influence of a feast. At length the look- 
out was sent to the mast head again. " What 
do you see now ?" said William. " I see," said 
the man, gazing very intently all the while to- 
ward the south, " four very small specks just 
in the horizon." The intense interest which 
this announcement awakened on the deck was 
soon at the same time heightened and relieved 
by the cry, " I can see more and more — they 
are the ships — yes, the whole squadron is com- 
ing into view." 

The advancing fleet soon came up with the 
Mira, when the latter spread her sails again, 
and all moved slowly on together toward the 
coast of England. 

The ships had directed their course so much 
to the eastward, that when they made the land 
they were not very far from the Straits of Do- 
ver. As they drew near to the English shore, 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 205 

The fleet enters the Bay of Pevensey. Disembarkation. 

they watched very narrowly for the appearance 
of Harold's cruisers, which they naturally ex- 
pected would have been stationed at various 
points, to guard the coast ; but none were to be 
seen. There had been such cruisers, and there 
still were such off the other harbors ; but it 
happened, very fortunately for "William, that 
those which had been stationed to guard this 
part of the island had been withdrawn a few 
days before, on account of their provisions be- 
ing exhausted. Thus, when William's fleet 
arrived, there was no enemy to oppose their 
landing. There was a large and open bay, call- 
ed the Bay of Pevensey, which lay smiling be- 
fore them, extending its arms as if inviting 
them in. The fleet advanced to within the 
proper distance from the land, and there the 
seamen cast their anchors, and all began to 
prepare for the work of disembarkation. 

A strong body of soldiery is of course landed 
first on such occasions. In this instance the 
archers, William's favorite corps, were selected 
to take the lead. William accompanied them. 
In his eagerness to get to the shore, as he leap- 
ed from the boat, his foot slipped, and he fell. 
The officers and men around him would have 
considered this an evil omen ; but he had pres- 

206 William the Conqueror. 

Landing of the troops. Anecdote. 

ence of mind enough to extend his arms and 
grasp the ground, pretending that his prostra- 
tion was designed, and saying at the same time, 
" Thus I seize this land ; from this moment it 
is mine." As he arose, one of his officers ran 
to a neighboring hut which stood near by upon 
the shore, and breaking off a little of the thatch, 
carried it to William, and, putting it into his 
hand, said that he thus gave him seizin of his 
new possessions. This was a customary form, 
in those times, of putting a new owner into pos- 
session of lands which he had purchased or ac- 
quired in any other way. The new proprietor 
would repair to the ground, where the party 
whose province it was to deliver the property 
would detach something from it, such as a piece 
of turf from a bank, or a little of the thatch 
from a cottage, and offering it to him, would 
say, " Thus I deliver thee seizin" that is, pos- 
session, " of this land." This ceremony was 
necessary to complete the conveyance of the 

The soldiers, as soon as they were landed, 
began immediately to form an encampment, 
and to make such military arrangements as 
were necessary to guard against an attack, or 
the sudden appearance of an enemy. While 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 207 

The encampment. Scouts sent out. 

this was going on, the boats continued to pass 
to and fro, accomplishing, as fast as possible, 
the work of disembarkation. In addition to 
those regularly attached to the army, there was 
a vast company of workmen of all kinds, engi- 
neers, pioneers, carpenters, masons, and labor- 
ers, to be landed ; and there were three towers, 
or rather forts, built of timber, which had been 
framed and fashioned in Normandy, ready to 
be put up on arriving: these had now to be 
landed, piece by piece, on the strand. These 
forts were to be erected as soon as the army 
should have chosen a position for a permanent 
encampment, and were intended as a means of 
protection for the provisions and stores. The 
circumstance shows that the plan of transport- 
ing buildings ready made, across the seas, has 
not been invented anew by our emigrants to 

While these operations were going on, Will- 
iam dispatched small squadrons of horse as re- 
connoitering parties, to explore the country 
around, to see if there were any indications 
that Harold was near. These parties return- 
ed, one after another, after having gone some 
miles into the country in all directions, and re- 
ported that there were no signs of an enemy to 

208 "William the Conqueror. 

William's supper. The missing ships. 

be seen. Things were now getting settled, too, 
in the camp, and William gave directions that 
the army should kindle their camp fires for the 
night, and prepare and eat their suppers. His 
own supper, or dinner, as perhaps it might be 
called, w r as also served, which he partook, w T ith 
his officers, in his own tent. His mind w T as in 
a state of great contentment and satisfaction at 
the successful accomplishment of the landing, 
and at finding himself thus safely established, 
at the head of a vast force, within the realm of 

Every circumstance of the transit had been 
favorable excepting one, and that was, that two 
of the ships belonging to the fleet were missing. 
William inquired at supper if any tidings of 
them had been received. They told him, in re- 
ply, that the missing vessels had been heard 
from ; they had, in some way or other, been 
run upon the rocks and lost. There was a 
certain astrologer, who had made a great parade, 
before the expedition left Normandy, of predicts 
ing its result. He had found, by consulting the 
stars, that William would be successful, and 
would meet with no opposition from Harold. 
This astrologer had been on board one of the 
missing ships, and was drowned. William re* 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 209 

The Conqueror's Stone. March of the army. Flight of the inhabitants. 

marked, on receiving this information, "What 
an idiot a man must be, to think that he can 
predict, by means of the stars, the future fate 
of others, when it is so plain that he can not fore- 
see his own !" 

It is said that "William's dinner on this occa- 
sion was served on a large stone instead of a ta- 
ble. The stone still remains on the spot, and is 
called " the Conqueror's Stone" to this day. 

The next day after the landing, the army 
was put in motion, and advanced along the 
coast toward the eastward. There was no 
armed enemy to contend against them there or 
to oppose their march ; the people of the coun- 
try, through which the army moved, far from 
attempting to resist them, were filled with ter- 
ror and dismay. This terror was heightened, 
in fact, by some excesses of which some parties 
of the soldiers were guilty. The inhabitants 
of the hamlets and villages, overwhelmed with 
consternation at the sudden descent upon their 
shores of such a vast horde of wild and desperate 
foreigners, fled in all directions. Some made 
their escape into the interior ; others, taking 
with them the helpless members of their house- 
holds, and such valuables as they could carry, 
sought refuge in monasteries and churches, 

210 "William the Conqueror. 

The army encamps. The town of Hastings. 

supposing that such sanctuaries as those, not 
even soldiers, unless they were pagans, would 
dare to violate. Others, still, attempted to con- 
ceal themselves in thickets and fens till the vast 
throng which was sweeping onward like a tor- 
nado should have passed. Though William af- 
terward always evinced a decided disposition to 
protect the peaceful inhabitants of the country 
from all aggressions on the part of his troops, 
he had no time to attend to that subject now. 
He was intent on pressing forward to a place 
of safety. 

William reached at length a position which 
seemed to him suitable for a permanent encamp- 
ment. It was an elevated land, near the sea. 
To the westward of it was a valley formed by 
a sort of recess opened in the range of chalky 
cliffs which here form the shore of England. 
In the bottom of this valley, down upon the 
beach, was a small town, then of no great con- 
sequence or power, but whose name, which 
was Hastings, has since been immortalized by 
the battle which, was fought in its vicinity a 
few days after William's arrival. The posi- 
tion which William selected for his encamp- 
ment was on high land in the vicinity of the 
town. The lines of the encampment were 

A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 211 

William's fortifications. Approach of Harold. 

marked out, and the forts or castles which had 
been brought from Normandy were set up with- 
in the inclosures. Yast multitudes of laborers 
were soon at work, throwing up embankments, 
and building redoubts and bastions, while others 
were transporting the arms, the provisions, and 
the munitions of war, and storing them in se- 
curity within the lines. The encampment was 
soon completed, and the long line of tents were 
set up in streets and squares within it. By the 
time, however, that the work was done, some 
of William's agents and spies came into camp 
from the north, saying that in four days Harold 
would be upon him at the head of a hundred 
thousand men. 

212 William the Conqueror. 

Tostig. He is driven from England. 

Chapter X. 

The Battle of Hastings. 

r | ^HE reader will doubtless recollect that the 
-■- tidings which William first received of the 
accession of King Harold were brought to him 
by Tostig, Harold's brother, on the day when 
he was trying his bow and arrows in the park 
at Rouen. Tostig was his brother's most in- 
veterate foe. He had been, during the reign of 
Edward, a great chieftain, ruling over the north 
of England. The city of York was then his 
capital. He had been expelled from these his 
dominions, and had quarreled with his brother 
Harold in respect to his right to be restored to 
them. In the course of this quarrel he was 
driven from the country altogether, and went 
to the Continent, burning with rage and resent- 
ment against his brother ; and when he came 
to inform William of Harold's usurpation, his 
object was not merely to arouse William to ac- 
tion — he wished to act himself. He told Will- 
iam that he himself had more influence in En- 
gland still than his brother, and that if William 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 213 

Expedition of Tostig. He sails to Norway. 

would supply him with a small fleet and a mod- 
erate number of men, he would make a descent 
upon the coast and show what he could do. 

"William acceded to his proposal, and furnish- 
ed him with the force which he required, and 
Tostig set sail. William had not, apparently, 
much confidence in the power of Tostig to pro- 
duce any great effect, but his efforts, he thought, 
might cause some alarm in England, and occa- 
sion sudden and fatiguing marches to the troops, 
and thus distract and weaken King Harold's 
forces. William would not, therefore, accom- 
pany Tostig himself, but, dismissing him with 
such force as he could readily raise on so sud- 
den a call, he remained himself in Normandy, 
and commenced in earnest his own grand prep- 
arations, as is described in the last chapter. 

Tostig did not think it prudent to attempt a 
landing on English shores until he had obtain- 
ed some accession to the force which William 
had given him. He accordingly passed through 
the Straits of Dover, and then turning north- 
ward, he sailed along the eastern shores of the" 
German Ocean in search of allies. He came, 
at length, to Norway. He entered into nego- 
tiations there with the Norwegian king, whose 
name, too, was Harold. This northern Harold 

214 "William the Conqueror. 

Tostig's alliance with the Norwegians. The Norwegian fleet. 

was a wild and adventurous soldier and sailor, 
a sort of sea king, who had spent a considera- 
ble portion of his life in marauding excursions 
upon the seas. He readily entered into Tos- 
tig's views. An arrangement was soon con- 
cluded, and Tostig set sail again to cross the 
G-erman Ocean toward the British shores, while 
Harold promised to collect and equip his own 
fleet as soon as possible, ana follow him. All 
this took place early in September ; so that, at 
the same time that William's threatened inva- 
sion was gathering strength and menacing Har- 
old's southern frontier, a cloud equally dark and 
gloomy, and quite as threatening in its aspect, 
was rising and swelling in the north; while 
King Harold himself, though full of vague un- 
easiness and alarm, could gain no certain in- 
formation in respect to either of these dan- 

The Norwegian fleet assembled at the port 
appointed for the rendezvous of it, but, as the 
season was advanced and the weather stormy, 
the soldiers there, like "William's soldiers on the 
coast of France, were afraid to put to sea. Some 
of them had dreams which they considered as 
bad omens ; and so much superstitious import- 
ance was attached to such ideas in those times 

A.D.1066.] Battle of Hastings. 215 

Superstitions. Dreams of the soldiers. 

that these dreams were gravely recorded Ly the 
writers of the ancient chronicles, and have come 
down to us as part of the regular and sober his- 
tory of the times. One soldier dreamed that 
the expedition had sailed and landed on the En- 
glish coast, and that there the English army 
came out to meet them. Before the front of 
the army rode a woman of gigantic stature, 
mounted on a wolf. The wolf had in his jaws 
a human body, dripping with blood, which he 
was en^asfed in devouring as he came alonsr. 
The woman gave the wolf another victim after 
he had devoured the first. 

Another of these ominous dreams was the 
following: Just as the fleet was about setting 
sail, the dreamer saw a crowd of ravenous vul- 
tures and birds of prey come and alight every 
where upon the sails and rigging of the ships, 
as if they were going to accompany the expedi- 
tion. Upon the summit of a rock near the 
shore there sat the figure of a female, with a 
stern and ferocious countenance, and a drawn 
sword in her hand. She was busy counting the 
ships, pointing at them, as she counted, with 
her sword. She seemed a sort of fiend of de- 
struction, and she called out to the birds, to en- 
courage them to go. " Go !" said she, "with- 

216 William the Conqueror. 

The combined fleets. Attack on Scarborough. 

out fear ; you shall have abundance of prey. I 
am going too." 

It is obvious that these dreams might as easily 
have been interpreted to portend death and de- 
struction to their English foes as to the dream- 
ers themselves. The soldiers were, however, 
inclined — in the state of mind which the season 
of the year, the threatening aspect of the skies, 
and the certain dangers of their distant expedi- 
tion, produced — to apply the gloomy predictions 
which they imagined these dreams expressed, to 
themselves. Their chief, however, was of too 
desperate and determined a character to pay 
any regard to such influences. He set sail. 
His armament crossed the German Sea in safe- 
ty, and joined Tostig on the coast of Scotland. 
The combined fleet moved slowly southward, 
along the shore, watching for an opportunity to 

They reached, at length, the town of Scar- 
borough, and landed to attack it. The inhab- 
itants retired within the walls, shut the gates, 
and bid the invaders defiance. The town was 
situated under a hill, which rose in a steep ac- 
clivity upon one side. The story is, that the 
Norwegians went upon this hill, where they 
piled up an enormous heap of trunks and 

A. D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 219 

The rolling fire. Burning of Scarborough. 

branches of trees, with the interstices filled 
with stubble, dried bark, and roots, and other 
such combustibles, and then setting the whole 
mass on fire, they rolled it down into the town 
' — a vast ball of fire, roaring and crackling more 
and more, by the fanning of its flames in the 
wind, as it bounded along. The intelligent 
reader will, of course, pause and hesitate, in 
considering how far to credit such a story. It 
is obviously impossible that any mere pile, how- 
ever closely packed, could be made to roll. But 
it is, perhaps, not absolutely impossible that 
trunks of trees might be framed together, or 
fastened with wet thongs or iron chains, after 
being made in the form of a rude cylinder or 
ball, and filled with combustibles within, so as 
to retain its integrity in such a descent. 

The account states that this strange meth- 
od of bombardment was successful. The town 
was set on fire ; the people surrendered. Tos- 
tig and the Norwegians plundered it, and then, 
embarking again in their ships, they contin- 
ued their voyage. 

The intelligence of this descent upon his 
northern coasts reached Harold in London to- 
ward the close of September, just as he was 
withdrawing his forces from the southern fron- 

220 "William the Conqueror. 

Tostig marches to York. Surrender of the city. 

tier, as was related in the last chapter, under 
the idea that the Norman invasion would prob- 
ably be postponed until the spring; so that, 
instead of sending his troops ( into their winter 
quarters, he had to concentrate them again with 
all dispatch, and march at the head of them to 
the north, to avert this new and unexpected 

While King Harold was thus advancing to 
meet them, Tostig and his Norwegian allies en- 
tered the River Humber. Their object was to 
reach the city of York, which had been Tostig's 
former capital, and which was situated near 
the River Ouse, a branch of the Humber. They 
accordingly ascended the Humber to the mouth 
of the Ouse, and thence up the latter river to a 
suitable point of debarkation not far from York. 
Here they landed and formed a great encamp- 
ment. From this encampment they advanced 
to the siege of the city. The inhabitants made 
some resistance at first ; but, finding that then- 
cause was hopeless, they offered to surrender, 
and a treaty of surrender was finally concluded. 
This negotiation was closed toward the evening 
of the day, and Tostig and his confederate forces 
were to be admitted on the morrow. They 
therefore, feeling that their prize was secure, 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 221 

Arrival of King Harold. Movements of Tostig. 

withdrew to their encampment for the night, 
and left the city to its repose. 

It so happened that King Harold arrived that 
very night, coming to the rescue of the city. 
He expected to have found an army of besiegers 
around the walls, but, instead of that, there was 
nothing to intercept his progress up to the very 
gates of the city. The inhabitants opened the 
gates to receive him, and the whole detachment 
which was marching under his command passed 
in, while Tostig and his Norwegian allies were 
sleeping quietly in their camp, wholly uncon- 
scious of the great change which had thus taken 
place in the situation of their affairs. 

The next morning Tostig drew out a large 
portion of the army, and formed them in array, 
for the purpose of advancing to take possession 
of the city. Although it was September, and 
the weather had been cold and stormy, it hap- 
pened that, on that morning, the sun came out 
bright, and the air was calm, giving promise of 
a warm day; and as the movement into the 
city was to be a peaceful one — a procession, as 
it were, and not a hostile march — the men were 
ordered to leave their coats of mail and all their 
heavy armor in camp, that they might march 
the more unencumbered. "While they were ad- 

222 William the Conqueror. 

Surprise of Tostig and his allies. Preparations for battle. 

vancing in this unconcerned and almost defense- 
less condition, they saw before them, on the 
road leading to the city, a great cloud of dust 
arising. It was a strong body of King Harold's 
troops coming out to attack them. At first, 
Tostig and the Norwegians were completely 
lost and bewildered at the appearance of so un- 
expected a spectacle. Very soon they could 
see weapons glittering here and there, and ban- 
ners flying. A cry of " The enemy ! the ene- 
my !" arose, and passed along their ranks, pro- 
ducing universal alarm. Tostig and the Nor- 
wegian Harold halted their men, and marshaled 
them hastily in battle array. The English 
Harold did the same, when he had drawn up 
near to the front of the enemy ; both parties 
then paused, and stood surveying one another. 

Presently there was seen advancing from the 
English side a squadron of twenty horsemen, 
splendidly armed, and bearing a flag of truce. 
They approached to within a short distance of 
the Norwegian lines, when a herald, who was 
among them, called out aloud for Tcstig. Tos- 
tig came forward in answer to the summons. 
The herald then proclaimed to Tostig that his 
brother did not wish to contend with him, but 
desired, on the contrary, that they should live 

A.D.1066.] Battle of Hastings. 223 

Negotiations between Tostig and his brother. The battle. 

together in harmony. He offered him peace, 
therefore, if he would lay down his arms, and 
he promised to restore him his former posses- 
sions and honors. 

Tostig seemed very much inclined to receive 
this proposition favorably. He paused and hes- 
itated. At length he asked the messenger what 
terms King Harold would make with his friend 
and ally, the Norwegian Harold. " He shall 
have," replied the messenger, "seven feet of 
English ground for a grave. He shall have a 
little more than that, for he is taller than com- 
mon men." " Then," replied Tostig, "tell my 
brother to prepare for battle. It shall never be 
said that I abandoned and betrayed my ally and 

The troop returned with Tostig's answer to 
Harold's lines, and the battle almost immedi- 
ately began. Of course the most eager and in- 
veterate hostility of the English army would be 
directed against the Norwegians and their king, 
whom they considered as foreign intruders, with- 
out any excuse or pretext for their aggression. 
It accordingly happened that, very soon after 
the commencement of the conflict, Harold the 
Norwegian fell, mortally wounded by an arrow 
in his throat. The English king then made 

224 William the Conqueror. 

Death of Tostig. The Norwegians retire. 

new proposals to Tostig to cease the combat, 
and come to some terms of accommodation. 
But, in the mean time, Tostig had become him- 
self incensed, and would listen to no overtures 
of peace. He continued the combat until he 
was himself killed. The remaining combatants 
in his army had now no longer any motive for 
resistance. Harold offered them a free passage 
to their ships, that they might return home in 
peace, if they would lay down their arms. 
They accepted the offer, retired on board their 
ships, and set sail. Harold then, having, in the 
mean time, heard of William's landing on the 
southern coast, set out on his return to the 
southward, to meet the more formidable enemy 
that menaced him there. 

His army, though victorious, was weakened 
by the fatigues of the march, and by the losses 
suffered in the battle. Harold himself had been 
wounded, though not so severely as to prevent 
his continuing to exercise the command. He 
pressed on toward the south with great energy, 
sending messages on every side, into the sur- 
rounding country, on his line of march, calling 
upon the chieftains to arm themselves and their 
followers, and to come on with all possible dis- 
patch, and join him. He hoped to advance so 

A. D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 225 

Harold attempts to surprise William. 

rapidly to the southern coast as to surprise 
William before he should have fully intrenched 
himself in his camp, and without his being 
aware of his enemy's approach. But William, 
in order to guard effectually against surprise, 
had sent out small reconnoitering parties of 
horsemen on all the roads leading northward, 
that they might bring him in intelligence of the 
first approach of the enemy. Harold's advanced 
guard met these parties, and saw them as they 
drove rapidly back to the camp to give the 
alarm. Thus the hope of surprising William 
was disappointed. Harold found, too, by his 
spies, as he drew near, to his utter dismay, that 
William's forces were four times as numerous 
as his own. It would, of course, be madness for 
him to think of attacking an enemy in his in- 
trenchments with such an inferior force. The 
only alternative left him was either to retreat, 
or else to take some strong position and fortify 
himself there, in the hope of being able to resist 
the invaders and arrest their advance, though 
he was not strong enough to attack them. 

Some of his counselors advised him not to 
hazard a battle at all, but to fall back toward 
London, carrying with him or destroying every 
thing which could afford sustenance to Will- 

226 "William the Conqueror. 

Advice of Harold's counselors. He rejects it. 

iam's army from the whole breadth of the land. 
This would soon, they said, reduce "William's 
army to great distress for want of food, since it 
would he impossible for him to transport sup- 
plies across the Channel for so vast a multitude. 
Besides, they said, this plan would compel Will- 
iam, in the extremity to which be would be re- 
duced, to make so many predatory excursions 
among the more distant villages and towns, as 
would exasperate the inhabitants, and induce 
them to join Harold's army in great numbers to 
repel the invasion. Harold listened to these 
counsels, but said, after consideration, that he 
could never adopt such a plan. He could not 
be so derelict to his duty as to lay waste a coun- 
try which he was under obligations to protect 
and save, or compel his people to come to his 
aid by exposing them, designedly, to the ex- 
cesses and cruelties of so ferocious an enemy. 

Harold determined, therefore, on giving Will- 
iam battle. It was not necessary, however, for 
him to attack the invader. He perceived at 
once that if he should take a strong position 
and fortify himself in it, William must neces- 
sarily attack him, since a foreign army, just 
landed in the country, could not long remain in- 
active on the shore. Harold accordingly chose 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 227 

Harold's encampment . The country alarmed. 

a position six or seven miles from "William's 
camp, and fortified himself strongly there. Of 
course neither army was in sight of the other, 
or knew the numbers, disposition, or plans of 
the enemy. The country between them was, 
so far as the inhabitants were concerned, a 
scene of consternation and terror. No one 
knew at what point the two vast clouds of dan- 
ger and destruction which were hovering near 
them would meet, or over what regions the ter- 
rible storm which was to burst forth when the 
hour of that meeting should come, would sweep 
in its destructive fury. The inhabitants, there- 
fore, were every where flying in dismay, con- 
veying away the aged and the helpless by any 
means which came most readily to hand ; tak- 
ing with them, too, such treasures as they could 
carry, and hiding, in rude and uncertain places 
of concealment, those which they were compel- 
led to leave behind. The region, thus, which 
lay between the two encampments was rapidly 
becoming a solitude and a desolation, across 
which no communication was made, and no tid- 
ings passed to give the armies at the encamp- 
ments intelligence of each other. 

Harold had two brothers among the officers 
of his army, Grurth and Leofwin. Their con- 

228 William the Conqueror. 

Harold's brothers. He proposes to visit William's camp. 

duct toward the king seems to have been of a 
more fraternal character than that of Tostig, 
■who had acted the part of a rebel and an enemy. 
G-urth and Leofwin, on the contrary, adhered 
to his cause, and, as the hour of danger and the 
great crisis which was to decide their fate drew 
nigh, they kept close to his side, and evinced a 
truly fraternal solicitude for his safety. It was 
they, specially, who had recommended to Har- 
old to fall back on London, and not risk his life, 
and the fate of his kingdom, on the uncertain 
event of a battle. 

As soon as Harold had completed his encamp- 
ment, he expressed a desire to Grurth to ride 
across the intermediate country and take a view 
of William's lines. Such an undertaking was 
less dangerous then than it would be at the 
present day ; for now, such a reconnoitering 
party would be discovered from the enemy's en- 
campment, at a great distance, by means of 
spy-glasses, and a twenty-four-pound shot or a 
shell would be sent from a battery to blow the 
party to pieces or drive them away. The only 
danger then was of being pursued by a detach- 
ment of horsemen from the camp, or surrounded 
by an ambuscade. To guard against these dan- 
gers, Harold and Gurth took the most powerful 

A.D.1066.] Battle of Hastings. 229 

Harold's arrival at William's lines. He reconnoiters the camp. 

and fleetest horses in the camp, and they called 
out a small but strong guard of well-selected 
men to escort them. Thus provided and at- 
tended, they rode over to the enemy's lines, and 
advanced so near that, from a small eminence 
to which they ascended, they could survey the 
whole scene of William's encampment : the 
palisades and embankments with which it was 
guarded, which extended for miles ; the long 
lines of tents within ; the vast multitude of sol- 
diers; the knights and officers riding to and 
fro, glittering with steel ; and the grand pavil- 
ion of the duke himself, with the consecrated 
banner of the cross floating above it. Harold 
was very much impressed with the grandeur of 
the spectacle. 

After gazing on this scene for some time in 
silence, Harold said to Grurth that perhaps, af- 
ter all, the policy of falling back would have 
been the wisest for them to adopt, rather than 
to risk a battle with so overwhelming a force as 
they saw before them. He did not know, he 
added, but that it would be best for them to 
change their plan, and adopt that policy now. 
G-urth said that it was too late. They had tak- 
en their stand, and now for them to break up 
their encampment and retire would be consid- 

230 "William the Conqueror. 

Harold's despondency. His spies. Their report. 

ered a retreat and not a maneuver, and it would 
discourage and dishearten the whole realm. 

After surveying thus, as long as they desired 
to do so, the situation and extent of William's 
encampment, Harold's party returned to their 
own lines, still determined to make a stand 
there against the invaders, hut feeling great 
douht and despondency in respect to the result. 
Harold sent over, too, in the course of the day, 
some spies. The men whom he employed for 
this purpose were Normans hy birth, and they 
could speak the French language. There were 
many Normans in England, who had come 
over in King Edward's time. These Norman 
spies could, of course, disguise themselves, and 
mingle, without attracting attention, among 
the thousands of workmen and camp followers 
that were going and coming continually around 
the grounds which William's army occupied. 
They did this so effectually, that they pene- 
trated within the encampment without diffi- 
culty, examined every thing, and, in due time, 
returned to Harold with their report. They 
gave a formidable account of the numbers and 
condition of William's troops. There was a 
large corps of bowmen in the army, which had 
adopted a fashion of being shaven and shorn in 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 231 

William's embassadors. Thuir propositions. 

such a manner that the spies mistook them for 
priests. They told Harold, accordingly, on their 
return, that there were more priests in Will- 
iam's camp than there were soldiers in all his 

During this eventful day, "William too sent 
a body of horsemen across the country which 
separated the two encampments, though his 
emissaries were not spies, but embassadors, 
with propositions for peace. William had no 
wish to fight a battle, if what he considered as 
rightfully his kingdom could be delivered to him 
without it; and he determined to make one 
final effort to obtain a peaceable surrender of 
it, before coming to the dreadful resort of an 
appeal to arms. He accordingly sent his em- 
bassy with three propositions to make to the 
English king. The principal messenger in this 
company was a monk, whose name was Maigrot. 
He rode, with a proper escort and a flag of truce, 
to Harold's lines. The propositions were these, 
by accepting either of which the monk said 
that Harold might avoid a battle. 1. That 
Harold should surrender the kingdom to Will- 
iam, as he had solemnly sworn to do over the 
sacred relics in Normandy. 2. That they should 
both agree to refer the whole subject of contro- 

232 "William the Conqueror. 

William's propositions unreasonable. Harold declines them. 

versy between them to the pope, and abide by 
his decision. 3. That they should settle the 
dispute by single combat, the two claimants to 
the crown to fight a duel on the plain, in pres- 
ence of their respective armies. 

It is obvious that Harold could not accept 
either of these propositions. The first was to 
give up the w T hole point at issue. As for the 
second, the pope had already prejudged the case, 
and if it were to be referred to him, there could 
be no doubt that he would simply reaffirm his 
former decision. And in respect to single com- 
bat, the disadvantage on Harold's part would 
be as great in such a contest as it would be in 
the proposed arbitration. He was himself a 
man of comparatively slender form and of little 
bodily strength. William, on the other hand, 
was distinguished for his size, and for his ex- 
traordinary muscular energy. In a modern 
combat with fire-arms these personal advant- 
ages would be of no avail, but in those days, 
when the weapons were battle-axes, lances, and 
swords, they were almost decisive of the result. 
Harold therefore declined all William's proposi- 
tions, and the monk returned. 

William seems not to have been wholly dis- 
couraged by this failure of his first attempt at 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 233 

Further proposals of William. Counter proposal of Harold. 

negotiation, for he sent his embassage a second 
time to make one more proposal. It was, that 
if Harold would consent to acknowledge AVill- 
iam as King of England, William would assign 
the whole territory to him and to his brother 
G-urth, to hold as provinces, under William's 
general sway. Under this arrangement Will- 
iam would himself return to Normandy, making 
the city of Rouen, which was his capital there, 
the capital of the whole united realm. To this 
proposal Harold replied, that he could not, on 
any terms, give up his rights as sovereign of En- 
gland. He therefore declined this proposal also. 
He, however, now made a proposition in his 
turn. He was willing, he said, to compromise 
the dispute, so far as it could be done by the 
payment of money. If William would abandon 
his invasion and return to Normandy, giving 
up his claims to the English crown, he would 
pay him, he said, any sum of money that he 
would name. 

William could not accept this proposal. He 
was, as he believed, the true and rightful heir 
to the throne of England, and there was a point 
of honor involved, as well as a dictate of ambi- 
tion to be obeyed, in insisting on the claim. 
In the mean time, the day had passed, while 

234 William the Conqueror. 

Harold's forebodings. Proposals of his brothers. 

these fruitless negotiations had been pending. 
Night was coming on. William's officers and 
counselors began to be uneasy at the delay. 
They said that every hour new re-enforcements 
were coming into Harold's camp, while they 
themselves were gaining no advantage, and, 
consequently, the longer the battle was delayed, 
the less was the certainty of victory. So Will- 
iam promised them that he would attack King 
Harold in his camp the very next morning. 

As the time for the great final struggle drew 
near, Harold's mind was oppressed more and 
more with a sense of anxiety and with foreboding 
fears. His brothers, too, were ill at ease. Their 
solicitude was increased by the recollection of 
Harold's oath, and of the awful sanctions with 
which they feared the sacred relics might have 
invested it. They were not sure that their 
brother's excuse for setting it aside would save 
him from the guilt and curse of perjury in the 
sight of Heaven. So they proposed, on the eve 
of the battle, that Harold himself should retire, 
and leave them to conduct the defense. " We 
can not deny," they said, " that you did take 
the oath ; and, notwithstanding the circum- 
stances which seem to absolve you from the 
obligation, it is best to avoid, if possible, the 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 235 

Night before the battle. Scenes in Harold's ciunp. 

open violation of it. It will be better, on the 
whole, for you to leave the army and go to 
London. You can aid very effectually in the 
defense of the kingdom by raising re-enforce- 
ments there. "VVe will stay and encounter the 
actual battle. Heaven can not be displeased 
with us for so doing, for we shall be only dis- 
charging the duty incumbent on all, of defend- 
ing their native land from foreign invasion." 

Harold would not consent to adopt this plan. 
He could not retire himself, he said, at the hour 
of approaching danger, and leave his brothers 
and his friends exposed, when it was his crown 
for which they were contending. 

Such were the circumstances of the two 
armies on the evening before the battle ; and, 
of course, in such a state of things, the tend- 
ency of the minds of men would be, in Harold's 
camp, to gloom and despondency, and in Will- 
iam's, to confidence and exultation. Harold un- 
dertook, as men in his circumstances often do, 
to lighten the load which weighed upon his own 
heart and oppressed the spirits of his men, by 
feasting and wine. He ordered a plentiful sup- 
per to be served, and supplied his soldiers with 
abundance of drink; and it is said that his 
whole camp exhibited, during the whole night, 

236 William the Conqueror.- 

Scenes in William's camp. Religious ceremonies. 

one wide-spread scene of carousing and revelry, 
the troops being gathered every where in groups 
around their camp fires, some half stupefied, 
others quarreling, and others still singing na- 
tional songs, and dancing with wild excitement, 
according to the various effects produced upon 
different constitutions by the intoxicating influ- 
ence of beer and wine. 

In "William's camp there were witnessed very 
different scenes. There were a great many 
monks and ecclesiastics in the train of his army, 
and, on the night before the battle, they spent 
the time in saying masses, reading litanies and 
prayers, chanting anthems, and in other similar 
acts of worship, assisted by the soldiers, w T ho 
gathered, in great congregations, for this wild 
worship, in the open spaces among the tents 
and around the camp fires. At length they all 
retired to rest, feeling an additional sense of 
safety in respect to the work of the morrow by 
having, as they supposed, entitled themselves, 
by their piety, to the protection of Heaven. 

In the morning, too, in William's camp, the 
first thing done was to convene the army for a 
grand celebration of mass. It is a curious illus- 
tration of the mingling of the religious, or, per- 
haps, we ought rather to say, the superstitious 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 237 

A martial bishop. William's war-horse. 

sentiment of the times, with the spirit of war, 
that the bishop who officiated in this solemn 
service of the mass wore a coat of mail under 
his pontifical attire, and an attendant stood by 
his side, while he was offering his prayers, with 
a steel-pointed spear in his hand, ready for the 
martial prelate to assume as soon as the service 
should be ended. Accordingly, when the re- 
ligious duty was performed, the bishop threw 
off his surplice, took his spear, and mounting 
his white charger, which was also all saddled 
and bridled beside him, he headed a brigade of 
horse, and rode on to the assault of the enemy. 
"William himself mounted a very magnificent 
war-horse from Spain, a present which he had 
formerly received from one of his wealthy barons. 
The name of the horse was Bayard. From 
"William's neck were suspended some of the 
most sacred of the relics over which Harold had 
taken his false oath. He imagined that there 
would be some sort of charm in them, to pro- 
tect his life, and to make the judgment of 
Heaven more sure against the perjurer. The 
standard which the pope had blessed was borne 
by his side by a young standard bearer, who 
was very proud of the honor. An older soldier, 
however, on whom the care of this standard 

238 William the Conqueror. 

Preliminary arrangements. Battle of Hastings. 

officially devolved, had asked to be excused 
from carrying it. He wished, he said, to do 
his work that day with the sword. "While mak- 
ing these preliminary arrangements for going 
into battle, William, with the party around him, 
stood upon a gentle eminence in the middle of 
the camp, and in sight of the whole army. 
Every one was struck with admiration at the 
splendid figure which their commander made — 
his large and well- formed limbs covered with 
steel, and his horse, whose form was as noble 
as that of his master, prancing restlessly, as if 
impatient for the battle to begin. 

When all were ready, the Norman army ad- 
vanced gayly and joyously to attack the En- 
glish lines ; but the gayety and joyousness of 
the scene soon disappeared, as corps after corps 
got fairly engaged in the awful work of the day. 
For ten long hours there reigned over the whole 
field one wide-spread scene of havoc and death — 
every soul among all those countless thousands 
delivered up to the supreme dominion of the most 
dreadful passions, excited to a perfect phren- 
sy of hatred, rage, and revenge, and all either 
mercilessly killing others, or dying themselves 
in agony and despair. When night came, the 
Normans were every where victorious. They 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 239 

Defeat of Harold. 

were in full possession of the field, and they rode 
triumphantly to and fro through Harold's camp, 
leaping their horses over the hodies of the dead 
and dying which covered the ground. Those of 
King Harold's followers that had escaped the 
slaughter of the day fled in hopeless confusion 
toward the north, where the flying masses 
strewed the roads for miles with the hodies of 
men who sank down on the way, spent with 
wounds or exhausted hy fatigue. 

In the morning, William marshaled his men 
on the field, and called over the names of the 
officers and men, as they had heen registered in 
Normandy, for the purpose of ascertaining who 
were killed. While this melancholy ceremony 
was going on, two monks came in, sent from 
the remains of the English army, and saying 
that King Harold was missing, and that it was 
rumored that he had been slain. If so, his body 
must be lying somewhere, they said, upon the 
field, and they wished for permission to make 
search for it. The permission was granted. 
With the aid of some soldiers they began to ex- 
plore the ground, turning over and examining 
every lifeless form which, by the dress or the 
armor, might seem to be possibly the king's. 
Their search was for a long time vain; the 

240 "William the Conqueror. 

Final subjugation of the island. William crowned at Westminster. 

ghastly faces of the dead were so mutilated and 
changed that nobody could he identified. At 
length, however, a woman who had been in 
Harold's family, and knew his person more in- 
timately than they, found and recognized the 
body, and the monks and the soldiers carried it 

The battle of Hastings sealed and settled the 
controversy in respect to the English crown. 
It is true that the adherents of Harold, and also 
those of Edgar Atheling, made afterward va- 
rious efforts to rally their forces and recover the 
kingdom, but in vain. William advanced to 
London, fortified himself there, and made ex- 
cursions from that city as a centre until he re- 
duced the island to his sway. He was crowned 
at length, at Westminster Abbey, with great 
pomp and parade. He sent for Matilda to come 
and join him, and instated her in his palace as 
Queen of England. He confiscated the prop- 
erty of all the English nobles who had fought 
against him, and divided it among the Norman 
chieftains who had aided him in the invasion. 
He made various excursions to and from Nor- 
mandy himself, being received every where 
throughout his dominions, on both sides the 

A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 241 

William's power. His greatness. 

Channel, with the most distinguished honors. 
In a word, he became, in the course of a few 
years after he landed, one of the greatest and 
most powerful potentates on the globe. How 
far all his riches and grandeur were from mak- 
ing him happy, will appear in the following 

242 "William the Conqueror. 

William's oldest son. His character. 

Chapter XL 
Prince Robert's Rebellion. 

AMBITIOUS men, who devote their time 
and attention, through all the early years 
of life, to their personal and political aggrand- 
izement, have little time to appropriate to the 
government and education of their children, and 
their later years are often embittered by the 
dissipation and vice, or by the unreasonable ex- 
actions of their sons. At least it was so in 
"William's case. By the time that his public 
enemies were subdued, and he found himself 
undisputed master both of his kingdom and his 
duchy, Ins peace and happiness were destroyed, 
and the tranquillity of his whole realm was dis- 
turbed by a terrible famrly quarrel. 

The name of his oldest son was Robert. He 
was fourteen years old when his father set off 
on his invasion of England. At that time he 
was a sort of spoiled child, having been his 
mother's favorite, and, as such, always greatly 
indulged by her. When William went away, 
it will be recollected that he appointed Matilda 

A.D.1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 243 

William's conflicts with his son Robert. William Rufus. 

regent, to govern Normandy during his absence. 
This boy was also named in the regency, so 
that he was nominally associated with his moth- 
er, and he considered himself, doubtless, as the 
more important personage of the two. In a 
word, while William was engaged in England, 
prosecuting his conquests there, Robert was 
growing up in Normandy a vain, self-conceit- 
ed, and ungovernable young man. 

His father, in going back and forth between 
England and Normandy, often came into con- 
flict with his son, as usual in such cases. In 
these contests Matilda took sides with the son. 
"William's second son, whose name was Will- 
iam Rufus, was jealous of his older brother, and 
was often provoked by the overbearing and im- 
perious spirit which Robert displayed. William 
Rufus thus naturally adhered to the father's 
part in the family feud. William Rufus was 
as rough and turbulent in spirit as Robert, but 
he had not been so indulged. He possessed, 
therefore, more self-control ; he knew very well 
how to suppress his propensities, and conceal 
the unfavorable aspects of his character when 
in the presence of his father. 

There was a third brother, named Henry. 
He was of a more quiet and inoffensive charac- 

244 William the Conqueror. 

William's son Henry. Robert nicknamed Short Boots. 

ter, and avoided taking an active part in the 
quarrel, except so far as William Rums led 
him on. He was William Rufus's friend and 
companion, and, as such, Robert considered him 
as his enemy. All, in fact, except Matilda, 
were against Robert, who looked down, in a 
haughty and domineering manner — as the old- 
est son and heir is very apt to do in rich and 
powerful families — upon the comparative insig- 
nificance of his younger brethren. The king, 
instead of restraining this imperious spirit in 
his son, as he might, perhaps, have done by a 
considerate and kind, and, at the same time, 
decisive exercise of authority, teased and tor- 
mented him by sarcasms and petty vexations. 
Among other instances of this, he gave him the 
nickname of Short Boots, because he was of in- 
ferior stature. As Robert was, however, at this 
time of full age, he was stung to the quick at 
having such a stigma attached to him by his 
father, and his bosom burned with secret senti- 
ments of resentment and revenge. 

He had, besides, other causes of complaint 
against his father, more serious still. When he 
was a very young child, his father, according to 
the custom of the times, had espoused him to 
the daughter and heiress of a neighboring earl, 

A.D. 1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 245 

Robert's betrothment. William's motives. 

a child like himself. Her name was Margaret. 
The earldom which this little Margaret was to 
inherit was Maine. It was on the frontiers of 
Normandy, and it was a rich and valuable pos- 
session. It w r as a part of the stipulation of the 
marriage contract that the young bride's do- 
main w T as to be delivered to the father of the 
bridegroom, to be held by him until the bride- 
groom should become of age, and the marriage 
should be fully consummated. In fact, the get- 
ting possession of this rich inheritance, with a 
prospect of holding it so many years, w r as very 
probably the principal end which William had 
in view in contracting for a matrimonial union 
so very premature. 

If this was, in reality, William's plan, it re- 
sulted, in the end, even more favorably than he 
had anticipated ; for the little heiress died a 
short time after her inheritance w 7 as put into 
the possession of her father-in-law. There was 
nobody to demand a restoration of it, and so 
William continued to hold it until his son, the 
bridegroom, became of age. Robert then de- 
manded it, contending that it was justly his. 
William refused to surrender it. He maintain- 
ed that what had passed between his son in his 
infancy, and the little Margaret, was not a mar- 

246 William the Conqueror. 

Death of Margaret. More trouble. 

riage, but only a betrothment — a contract for a 
future marriage, which was to take place when 
the parties were of age — that, since Margaret's 
death prevented the consummation of the union, 
Robert was never her husband, and could not, 
consequently, acquire the rights of a husband. 
The lands, therefore, ought manifestly, he said, 
to remain in the hands of her guardian, and 
whatever rights any other persons might have, 
claiming to succeed Margaret as her natural 
heirs, it was plain that his son could have no 
title whatever. 

However satisfactory this reasoning might be 
to the mind of William, Robert was only ex- 
asperated by it. He looked upon the case as 
one of extreme injustice and oppression on the 
part of his father, who, not content, he said, 
with his own enormous possessions, must add 
to them by robbing his own son. In this opin- 
ion Robert's mother, Matilda, agreed with him. 
As for William Rufus and Henry, they paid 
little attention to the argument, but were pleas- 
ed with the result of it, and highly enjoyed 
their brother's vexation and chagrin in not be- 
ing able to get possession of his earldom. 

There was another very serious subject of 
dispute between Robert and his father. It has 

A.D. 1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 247 

Robert's political power. His ambition. 

already been stated, that when the duke set 
out on his expedition for the invasion of En- 
gland, he left Matilda and Robert together in 
charge of the duchy. At the commencement 
of the period of his absence Robert was very 
young, and the actual power rested mainly in 
his mother's hands. As he grew older, how- 
ever, he began to exercise an increasing influ- 
ence and control. In fact, as he was himself 
ambitious and aspiring, and his mother indul- 
gent, the power passed very rapidly into his 
hands. It was eight years from the time that 
William left Normandy before his power was 
so far settled and established in England that 
he could again take the affairs of his original 
realm into his hands. He had left Robert, at 
that time, a mere boy of fourteen, who, though 
rude and turbulent in character, was still polit- 
ically powerless. He found him, on his return, 
a man of twenty-two, ruder and more turbulent 
than before, and in the full possession of polit- 
ical power. This power, too, he found him 
very unwilling to surrender. 

In fact, when "William came to receive back 
the province of Normandy again, Robert almost 
refused to surrender it. He said that his father 
had always promised him the duchy of Nor- 

248 Willi a- m the Conqueror. 

Robert claims Normandy. William refuses it. 

mandy as his domain so soon as he should he- 
come of age, and he claimed now the fulfillment 
of this promise. Besides, he said that, now 
that his father was King of England, his former 
realm was of no consequence to him. It did 
not add sensibly to his influence or his power, 
and he might, therefore, without suffering any 
sensible loss himself, grant it to his son. Will- 
iam, on his part, did not acknowledge the force 
of either of these arguments. He would not 
admit that he had ever promised Normandy to 
Ins son ; and as to voluntarily relinquishing any 
part of his possessions, he had no faith in the 
policy of a man's giving up his power or his 
property to his children until they were justly 
entitled to inherit it by his death ; at any rate, 
he should not do it. He had no idea, as he ex- 
pressed it, " of putting off his clothes before he 
was going to bed." 

The irritation and ill-will which these dissen- 
sions produced grew deeper and more inveterate 
every day, though the disagreement had been 
thus far a private and domestic dispute, con- 
fined, in its influence, to the king's immediate 
household. An occasion, however, now occur- 
red, on which the private family feud broke out 
into an open public quarrel. The circumstances 
were these : 

AJ). 1076.] Robert's Rebellion. 249 

Castle at L'Aigle. Quarrel between Robert and William Rufus. 

King William had a castle in Normandy, at 
a place called L'Aigle. He was spending some 
time there, in the year 1076, with his court and 
family. One day William Rufus and Henry 
were in one of the upper apartments of the cas- 
tle, playing with dice, and amusing themselves, 
in company with other young men of the court, 
in various ways. There was a window in the 
apartment leading out upon a balcony, from 
which one might look down upon the court-yard 
of the castle below. Robert was in this court- 
yard with some of his companions, walking 
there in an irritated state of mind, which had 
been produced by some previous disputes with 
his brothers. William Rufus looked down from 
the balcony and saw him, and by way, perhaps, 
of quenching his anger, poured some water 
down upon him. The deed changed the sup- 
pressed and silent irritation in Robert's heart to 
a perfect phrensy of rage and revenge. He 
drew his sword and sprang to the stair-case. 
He uttered loud and terrible imprecations as he 
went, declaring that he would kill the author 
of such an insult, even if he ivas his brother. 
The court-yard was, of course, immediately 
filled with shouts and exclamations of alarm, 
and every body pressed forward toward the 

250 William the Conqueror. 

The combatants parted. Robert's rage. 

room from which the water had been thrown, 
some to witness, and some to prevent the affray. 

The king himself, who happened to he in that 
part of the castle at the time, was one of the 
number. He reached the apartment just in 
time to interpose between his sons, and prevent 
the commission of the awful crime of fratri- 
cide. As it was, he found it extremely diffi- 
cult to part the ferocious combatants. It re- 
quired all his paternal authority, and not a little 
actual force, to arrest the affray. He succeeded, 
however, at length, with the help of the by-stand- 
ers, in parting his sons, and Robert, out of 
breath, and pale with impotent rage, was led 

Robert considered his father as taking sides 
against him in this quarrel, and he declared 
that he could not, and would not, endure such 
treatment any longer. He found some sym- 
pathy in the conversation of his mother, to 
whom he went immediately with bitter com- 
plainings. She tried to soothe and quiet his 
wounded spirit, but he would not be pacified. 
He spent the afternoon and evening in organ- 
izing a party of wild and desperate young men 
from among the nobles of the court, with a view 
of raising a rebellion against his father, and get- 

A.D. 1076.] Robert's Rebellion. 2ol 

Robert's rebellion. Anxiety and distress of Matilda. 

ting possession of Normandy by force. They 
kept their designs profoundly secret, but prepared 
to leave L'Aigle that night, to go and seize 
Rouen, the capital, which they hoped to sur- 
prise into a surrender. Accordingly, in the 
middle of the night, the desperate troop mount- 
ed their horses and rode away. In the morning 
the king found that they were gone, and he 
sent an armed force after them. Their plan of 
surprising Rouen failed. The king's detach- 
ment overtook them, and, after a sharp contest, 
succeeded in capturing a few of the rebels, 
though Robert himself, accompanied by some 
of the more desperate of his followers, escaped 
over the frontier into a neighboring province, 
where he sought refuge in the castle of one of 
his father's enemies. 

This result, as might have been expected, 
filled the mind of Matilda with anxiety and 
distress. A civil war between her husband and 
her son was now inevitable ; and while every 
consideration of prudence and of duty required 
her to espouse the father's cause, her maternal 
love, a principle stronger far, in most cases, 
than prudence and duty combined, drew her 
irresistibly toward her son. Robert collected 
around him all the discontented and desperate 

252 William the Conqueror. 

Measures of Matilda. Advantages of William. 

spirits of the realm, and for a long time con- 
tinued to make his father infinite trouble. 
Matilda, while she forbore to advocate his cause 
openly in the presence of the king, kept up a 
secret communication with him. She sent him 
information and advice from time to time, and 
sometimes supplies, and was thus, technically, 
guilty of a great crime—the crime of maintain- 
ing a treasonable correspondence with a rebel. 
In a moral point of view, however, her conduct 
may have been entirely right; at any rate, its 
influence was very salutary, for she did all in 
her power to restrain both the father and the 
son ; and by the influence which she thus ex- 
erted, she doubtless mitigated very much the 
fierceness of the struggle. 

Of course, the advantage, in such a civil war 
as this, would be wholly on the side of the 
sovereign. William had all the power and re- 
sources of the kingdom in his own hands — the 
army, the towns, the castles, the treasures. 
Robert had a troop of wild, desperate, and un- 
manageable outlaws, without authority, with- 
out money, without a sense of justice on their 
side. He gradually became satisfied that the 
contest was vain. In proportion as the activity 
of the hostilities diminished, Matilda became 

A.D. 1076.] Robert's Rebellion. 253 

Robert lays down his arms. Interview with his father. 

more and more open in her efforts to restrain it, 
and to allay the animosity on either side. She 
succeeded, finally, in inducing Robert to lay 
down his arms, and then brought about an in- 
terview between the parties, in hopes of a peace- 
ful settlement of the quarrel. 

It appeared very soon, however, at this in- 
terview, that there was no hope of any thing 
like a real and cordial reconciliation. Though 
both the father and son had become weary of 
the unnatural war which they had waged 
against each other, yet the ambitious and self- 
ish desires on both sides, in which the contest 
had originated, remained unchanged. Robert 
began the conference by imperiously demanding 
of his father the fulfillment of his promise to 
give him the government of Normandy. His 
father replied by reproaching him with his un- 
natural and wicked rebellion, and warned him 
of the danger he incurred, in imitating the ex- 
ample of Absalom, of sharing that wretched 
rebel's fate. Robert rejoined that he did not 
come to meet his father for the sake of hearing 
a sermon preached. He had had enough of 
sermons, he said, when he was a boy, studying 
grammar. He wanted his father to do him 
justice, not preach to him. The king said that 

254 William the Conqueror. 

Recriminations. The interview fruitless. 

he should never divide his dominions, while he 
lived, with any one ; and added, notwithstand- 
ing what Robert had contemptuously said about 
sermons, that the Scripture declared that a 
house divided against itself could not stand. 
He then proceeded to reproach and incriminate 
the prince in the severest manner for his dis- 
loyalty as a subject, and his undutifulness and 
ingratitnde as a son. It was intolerable, he 
said, that a son should become the rival and 
bitterest enemy of his father, when it was to 
him that he owed, not merely all that he en- 
joyed, but his very existence itself. 

These reproaches were probably uttered in 
an imperious and angry manner, and with that 
spirit of denunciation which only irritates the 
accused and arouses his resentment, instead of 
awakening feelings of penitence and contrition. 
At any rate, the thought of his filial ingrati- 
tude, as his father presented it, produced no re- 
lenting in Robert's mind. He abruptly term- 
inated the interview, and went out of his fa- 
ther's presence in a rage. 

In spite of all his mother's exertions and en- 
treaties, he resolved to leave the country once 
more. He said he would rather be an exile, 
and wander homeless in foreign lands, than to 

A.D. 1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 255 

Robert goes to Flanders. His treasonable correspondence. 

remain in his father's court, and be treated in 
so unjust and ignominious a manner, by one 
who was bound by the strongest possible obli- 
gations to be his best and truest friend. Ma- 
tilda could not induce him to change this de- 
termination ; and, accordingly, taking with him 
a few of the most desperate and dissolute of his 
companions, he went northward, crossed the 
frontier, and sought refuge in Flanders. Flan- 
ders, it will be recollected, was Matilda's native 
land. Her brother was the Earl of Flanders at 
this time. The earl received young Robert 
very cordially, both for his sister's sake, and 
also, probably, in some degree, as a means of 
petty hostility against King William, his pow- 
erful neighbor, whose glory and good fortune 
he envied. 

Robert had not the means or the resources 
necessary for renewing an open war with his 
father, but his disposition to do this was as 
strong as ever, and he began immediately to 
open secret communications and correspondence 
with all the nobles and barons in Normandy 
whom he thought disposed to espouse his cause. 
He succeeded in inducing them to make secret 
contributions of funds to supply his pecuniary 
wants, of course promising to repay them with 

256 William the Conqueror. 

Action of Philip. He sides with Robert. 

ample grants and rewards so soon as he should 
obtain his rights. He maintained similar com- 
munications, too, with Matilda, though she kept 
them very profoundly secret from her husband. 
Robert had other friends besides those whom 
he found thus furtively in Normandy. The 
King of France himself was much pleased at 
the breaking out of this terrible feud in the 
family of his neighbor, who, from being his de- 
pendent and vassal, had become, by his con- 
quest of England, his great competitor and rival 
in the estimation of mankind. Philip was dis- 
posed to rejoice at any occurrences which tend- 
ed to tarnish William's glory, or which threat- 
ened a division and diminution of his power. 
He directed his agents, therefore, both in Nor- 
mandy and in Flanders, to encourage and pro- 
mote the dissension by every means in their 
power. He took great care not to commit him- 
self by any open and positive promises of aid, 
and yet still he contrived, by a thousand indi- 
rect means, to encourage Robert to expect it. 
Thus the mischief was widened and extended, 
while yet nothing effectual was done toward 
organizing an insurrection. In fact, Robert had 
neither the means nor the mental capacity nec- 
essary for maturing and carrying into effect any 

AJX1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 257 

Robert's dissipation. Matilda sends him supplies. 

actual plan of rebellion. In the mean time, 
months passed away, and as nothing effectual 
was done, Robert's adherents in Normandy be- 
came gradually discouraged. They ceased their 
contributions, and gradually forgot their absent 
and incompetent leader. Robert spent his time 
in dissipation and vice, squandering in feasts 
and in the company of abandoned men and 
women the means which his followers sent him 
to enable him to prepare for the war ; and when, 
at last, these supplies failed him, he would have 
been reduced gradually to great distress and 
destitution, were it not that one faithful and 
devoted friend still adhered to him. That friend 
was his mother. 

Matilda knew very well that whatever she 
did for her absent son must be done in the most 
clandestine manner, and this required much 
stratagem and contrivance on her part. She 
was aided, however, in her efforts at conceal- 
ment by her husband's absence. He was now 
for a time in England, having been called there 
by some pressing demands of public duty. He 
left a great minister of state in charge of Nor- 
mandy, whose vigilance Matilda thought it 
would be comparatively easy to elude. She 
sent to Robert, in Flanders, first her own pri- 

258 William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's secret supplies. She is discovered. 

vate funds. Then she employed for this pur- 
pose a portion of such public funds as came 
into her hands. The more she sent, however, 
the more frequent and imperious were Robert's 
demands for fresh supplies. The resources of a 
mother, whether great or small, are always soon 
exhausted by the insatiable requirements of a 
dissolute and profligate son. When Matilda's 
money was gone, she sold her jewels, then her 
more expensive clothes, and, finally, such ob- 
jects of value, belonging to herself or to her 
husband, as could be most easily and privately 
disposed of. The minister, who was very faith- 
ful and watchful in the discharge of his duties, 
observed indications that something mysterious 
was going on. His suspicions were aroused. 
He watched Matilda's movements, and soon dis- 
covered the truth. He sent information to 
William. William could not believe it possi- 
ble that his minister's surmises could be true ; 
for William was simply a statesman and a sol- 
dier, and had very inadequate ideas of the ab- 
sorbing and uncontrollable power which is ex- 
ercised by the principle oi maternal love. 

He, however, determined immediately to take 
most efficient measures to ascertain the truth. 
He returned to Normandy, and there he sue- 

A.D.1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 259 

Matilda's messenger seized. William's reproaches. 

ceeded in intercepting one of Matilda's messen- 
gers on his way to Flanders, with communica- 
tions and money for Robert. The name of this 
messenger was Sampson. William seized the 
money and the letters, and sent the messenger 
to one of his castles, to be shut up in a dun- 
geon. Then, with the proofs of guilt which he 
had thus obtained, he went, full of astonish- 
ment and anger, to find Matilda, and to up- 
braid her, as he thought she deserved, for her 
base and ungrateful betrayal of her husband. 

The reproaches which he addressed to her 
were bitter and stern, though they seem to have 
been spoken in a tone of sorrow rather than of 
anger. " I am sure," he said, " I have ever 
been to you a faithful and devoted husband. I 
do not know what more you could have desired 
than I have done. I have loved you with a sin- 
cere and true affection. I have honored you. 
I have placed you in the highest positions, in- 
trusting you repeatedly with large shares of my 
own sovereign power. I have confided in you 
- — committing my most essential and vital in- 
terests to your charge. And now this is the 
return. You employ the very position, and 
pow T er, and means which your confiding hus- 
band has put into your hands, to betray him in 

260 "William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's reply. William's anger. 

the most cruel way, and to aid and encourage 
his worst and most dangerous enemy." 

To these reproaches Matilda attempted no 
reply, except to plead the irresistible impetuos- 
ity and strength of her maternal love. " I 
could not hear," she said, "to leave Robert in 
distress and suffering while I had any possible 
means of relieving him. He is my child. I 
think of him all the time. I love him more 
than my life. I solemnly declare to you, that 
if he were now dead, and I could restore him to 
life by dying for him, I would most gladly do 
it. How, then, do you suppose that I could 
possibly live here in abundance and luxury, 
while he was wandering homeless, in destitu- 
tion and w 7 ant, and not try to relieve him ? 
Whether it is right or wrong for me to feel so, 
I do not know ; but this I know, I must feel so : 
I can not help it. He is our first-born son ; I 
can not abandon him." 

William went aw r ay from the presence of Ma- 
tilda full of resentment and anger. Of course 
he could do nothing in respecf to her but re- 
proach her, but he determined that the un- 
lucky Sampson should suffer severely for the 
crime. He sent orders to the castle where he 
lay immured, requiring that his eyes should be 

A.D.1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 261 

Sampson's escape. Things grow worse. 

put out. Matilda, however, discovered the dan- 
ger which threatened her messenger in time to 
send him warning. He contrived to make his 
escape, and fled to a certain monastery which 
was under Matilda's special patronage and 
charge. A monastery was, in those days, a 
sanctuary into which the arm even of the most 
despotic authority scarcely dared to intrude in 
pursuit of its victim. To make the safety 
doubly sure, the abbot proposed that the trem- 
bling fugitive should join their order and be- 
come a monk. Sampson was willing to do any 
thing to save his life. The operation of putting 
out the eyes was very generally fatal, so that 
he considered his life at stake. He was, ac- 
cordingly, shaven and shorn, and clothed in the 
monastic garb. He assumed the vows of the 
order, and entered, with his brother monks, 
upon the course of fastings, penances, and pray- 
ers which pertained to his new vocation ; and 
"William left him to pursue it in peace. 

Tilings went on worse instead of better after 
this discovery of the mother's participation hi 
the councils of the son. Either through the aid 
which his mother had rendered, or by other 
means, there seemed to be a strong party in 
and out of Normandy who were inclined to es- 

262 William the Conqueror. 

Preparations for war. Matilda's distress. 

pouse Robert's cause. His friends, at length, 
raised a' very considerable army, and putting 
him at the head of it, they advanced to attack 
Rouen. The king, greatly alarmed at this 
danger, collected all the forces that he could 
command, and went to meet his rebel son. 
William Rufus accompanied his father, intend- 
ing to fight by his side ; while Matilda, in an 
agony of terror and distress, remained, half dis- 
tracted, within her castle walls — as a wife and 
mother might be expected to be, on the approach 
of a murderous conflict between her husband 
and her son. The thought that one of them 
might, perhaps, be actually killed by the other, 
filled her with dismay. 

And, in fact, this dreadful result came very 
near being realized. Robert, in the castle at 
L'Aigle, had barely been prevented from de- 
stroying his brother, and now, on the plain of 
Archembraye, where this battle was fought, his 
father fell, and was very near being killed, by 
his hand. In the midst of the fight, while the 
horsemen were impetuously charging each other 
in various parts of the field, all so disguised by 
their armor that no one could know the indi- 
vidual with whom he was contending, Robert 
encountered a large and powerful knight, and 

A.D.1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 263 

William wounded by his son. The battle goes against him. 

drove his lance through his armor into his arm. 
Through the shock of the encounter and the 
faintness produced by the agony of the wound, 
the horseman fell to the ground, and Robert 
perceived, by the voice with which his fallen 
enemy cried out in his pain and terror, that it 
was his father that he had thus pierced with 
his steel. At the same moment, the wounded 
father, in looking at his victorious antagonist, 
recognized his son. He cursed his unnatural 
enemy with a bitter and terrible malediction. 
Robert was shocked and terrified at w T hat he 
had done. He leaped from his horse, knelt 
down by the side of his father, and called for 
aid. The king, distracted by the anguish of 
his wound, and by the burning indignation and 
resentment which raged in his bosom against 
the unnatural hostility which inflicted it, turned 
away from his son, and refused to receive any 
succor from him. 

Besides the misfortune of being unhorsed 
and wounded, the battle itself went that day 
against the king. Robert's army remained 
masters of the field. William Rufus was 
wounded too, as well as his father. Matilda 
was overwhelmed with distress and mental an- 
guish at the result. She could not endure the 

264 "William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's anguish. The reconciliation. 

idea of allowing so unnatural and dreadful a 
struggle to go on. She begged her husband, 
with the most earnest importunities and with 
many tears, to find some way of accommodating 
the dispute. Her nights were sleepless, her 
days were spent in weeping, and her health and 
strength were soon found to be wasting very 
rapidly away. She was emaciated, wan, and 
pale, and it was plain that such distress, if long 
continued, would soon bring her to the grave. 

Matilda's intercessions at length prevailed. 
The king sent for his son, and, after various 
negotiations, some sort of compromise was ef- 
fected. The armies were disbanded, peace was 
restored, and Robert and his father once more 
seemed to be friends. Soon after this, William, 
having a campaign to make in the north of En- 
gland, took Robert with him as one of the gen- 
erals in his army. 

A.D. 1078.] The Conclusion. 265 

William's reisrn in England. His difficulties. 

Chapter XII. 
The Conclusion. 

FROM the time of the battle of Hastings, 
which took place in 1066, to that of Will- 
iam's death, which occurred in 1087, there in- 
tervened a period of about twenty years, during 
which the great monarch reigned over his ex- 
tended dominions with a very despotic sway, 
though not without a large share of the usual 
dangers, difficulties, and struggles attending 
such a rule. He brought over immense num- 
bers of Normans from Normandy into England, 
and placed all the military and civil power of 
the empire in their hands ; and he relied almost 
entirely upon the superiority of his physical 
force for keeping the country in subjugation to 
his sway. It is true, he maintained that he 
w T as the rightful heir to the English crown, and 
that, consequently, the tenure by which he held 
it was the right of inheritance, and not the right 
of conquest; and he professed to believe that 
the people of England generally admitted his 
claim. This was, in fact, to a considerable ex- 

266 "William the Conqueror. 

Feelings of the English people. Rebellions. 

tent, true. At least there was probably a large 
part of the population who believed William's 
right to the crown superior to that of Harold, 
whom he had deposed. Still, as "William was 
by birth, and education, and language a foreign- 
er, and as all the friends and followers who at- 
tended him, and, in fact, almost the whole of 
the army, on which he mainly relied for the 
preservation of his power, were foreigners too 
— wearing a strange dress, and speaking in an 
unknown tongue — the great mass of the En- 
glish people could not but feel that they were 
under a species of foreign subjugation. Quar- 
rels were therefore continually breaking out be- 
tween them and their Norman masters, result- 
ing in fierce and bloody struggles, on their part, 
to get free. These rebellions were always ef- 
fectually put down ; but when quelled in one 
quarter they soon broke out in another, and 
they kept "William and his forces almost always 

But William was not a mere warrior. He 
was well aware that the permanence and sta- 
bility of his own and his successor's sway in 
England would depend finally upon the kind 
of basis on which the civil institutions of the 
country should rest, and on the proper consolida- 

A.D.1078.] The Conclusion. 267 

Amalgamation of the English and Normans. William's labors. 

tion and adjustment of the administrative and 
judicial functions of the realm. In the inter- 
vals of his campaigns, therefore, "William de- 
voted a great deal of time and attention to this 
subject, and he evinced a most profound and 
statesmanlike wisdom and sagacity in his man- 
ner of treating it. 

He had, in fact, a Herculean task to perform 
— a double task — viz., to amalgamate two na- 
tions, and also to fuse and merge two lan- 
guages into one. He w 7 as absolutely compel- 
led, by the circumstances under which he was 
placed, to grapple with both these vast under- 
takings. If, at the time when, in his park at 
Rouen, he first heard of Harold's accession, he 
had supposed that there was a party in England 
in his favor strong enough to allow of his pro- 
ceeding there alone, or with a small Norman 
attendance, so that he might rely mainly on 
the English themselves for his accession to the 
throne, the formidable difficulties which, as it 
was, he had subsequently to encounter, would 
all have been saved. But there was no such 
party — at least there was no evidence that 
there was one of sufficient strength to justify 
him in trusting himself to it. It seemed to 
him, then, that if he undertook to gain posses- 

268 "William the Conqueror. 

Necessity of bringing a large Norman force. Providing for them. 

sion of the English throne at all, he must rely- 
entirely on the force which he could take with 
him from Normandy. To make this reliance 
effectual, the force so taken must he an over- 
whelming one. Then, if Normans in great 
numbers were to go to England for the purpose 
of putting him upon the English throne, they 
must be rewarded, and so vast a number of 
candidates for the prizes of honor and wealth 
could be satisfied only in England, and by con- 
fiscations there. His possessions in Normandy 
would obviously be insufficient for such a pur- 
pose. It was evident, moreover, that if a large 
number of Norman adventurers were placed in 
stations of trust and honor, and charged with 
civil offices and administrative functions all 
over England, they would form a sort of class 
by themselves, and would be looked upon with 
jealousy and envy by the original inhabitants, 
and that there was no hope of maintaining 
them safely in their position except by making 
the class as numerous and as strong as possible. 
In a word, William saw very clearly that, while 
it would have been very well, if it had been 
possible, for him to have brought no Normans 
to England, it was clearly best, since so many 
must go, to contrive every means to swell and 

A.D.1078.] The Conclusion. 269 

The British realm Normanized. O yes ! O yes ! O yes ! 

increase the number. It was one of those cases 
where, being obliged to go far, it is best to go 
farther ; and William resolved on thoroughly 
Normanizing, so to speak, the whole British 
realm. This enormous undertaking he accom- 
plished fully and permanently ; and the institu- 
tions of England, the lines of family descent, 
the routine of judicial and administrative busi- 
ness, and the very language of the realm, retain 
the Norman characteristics which he ingrafted 
into them to the present day. 

It gives us a feeling akin to that of sublimity 
to find, even in our own land, and in the most 
remote situations of it, the lingering relics of 
the revolutions and deeds of these early ages, 
still remaining, like a faint ripple rolling gen- 
tly upon a beach in a deep and secluded bay, 
which was set in motion, perhaps, at first, as 
one of the mountainous surges of a wintery 
storm in the most distant seas. For example, 
if we enter the most humble court in any re- 
mote and newly-settled country in the American 
forests, a plain and rustic-looking man will call 
the equally rustic-looking assembly to order by 
rapping his baton, the only symbol of his office, 
on the floor, and calling out, in words mystic 
and meaningless to him, " yes ! yes ! 

270 William the Conqueror. 

Relics of the past. Their future preservation. 

yes !-"* He little thinks that he is obeying a 
behest of William the Conqueror, issued eight 
hundred years ago, ordaining that his native 
tongue should be employed in the courts of En- 
gland. The irresistible progress of improve- 
ment and reform have gradually displaced the 
intruding language again — except so far as it 
has become merged and incorporated with the 
common language of the country — from all the 
ordinary forms of legal proceedings. It lingers 
still, however, as it were, on the threshold, in 
this call to order ; and as it is harmless there, 
the spirit of conservatism will, perhaps, preserve 
for it this last place of refuge for a thousand 
years to come, and " O yes" will be the phrase 
for ordaining silence by many generations of 
officers, who will, perhaps, never have heard of 
the authority whose orders they unwittingly 

The work of incorporating the Norman and 
English families with one another, and fusing 
the two languages into one, required about a 
century for its full accomplishment ; and when 
at last it was accomplished, the people of En- 
gland were somewhat puzzled to know whether 

* Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Norman French for Hearken! 
hearken! hearken! 

A.D.1078.] The Conclusion. 271 

Point of view in which the Norman Conquest is regarded. 

they ought to feel proud of William's exploits 
in the conquest of England, or humiliated by 
them. So far as they were themselves de- 
scended from the Normans, the conquest was 
one of the glorious deeds of their ancestors. So 
far as they were of English parentage, it would 
seem to be incumbent on them to mourn over 
their fathers' defeat. It is obvious that from 
such a species of perplexity as this there was 
no escape, and it has accordingly continued to 
embarrass the successive generations of En- 
glishmen down to the present day. The Nor- 
man Conquest occupies, therefore, a very uncer- 
tain and equivocal position in English history, 
the various modern writers who look back to it 
now being hardly able to determine whether 
they are to regard it as a mortifying subjuga- 
tion which their ancestors suffered, or a glori- 
ous victory which they gained. 

One of the great measures of William's reign, 
and one, in fact, for which it has been particu- 
larly famous in modern times, was a grand cen- 
sus or registration of the kingdom, which the 
Conqueror ordered with a view of having on 
record a perfect enumeration and description of 
all the real and personal property in the king- 
dom. This grand national survey was made in 

272 "William the Conqueror. 

Domesday Book. Its great obscurity. 

1078. The result was recorded in two volumes 
of different sizes, which were called the Grreat 
and the Little Domesday Book. These hooks 
are still preserved, and are to this day of the 
very highest authority in respect to all ques- 
tions touching ancient rights of property. One 
is a folio, and the other a quarto volume. The 
records are written on vellum, in a close, abridg- 
ed, and, to ordinary readers, a perfectly unintel- 
ligible character. The language is Latin ; but 
a modern Latin scholar, without any means 
other than an inspection of the work, would be 
utterly unable to decipher it. In fact, though 
the character is highly wrought, and in some 
respects elegant, the whole style and arrange- 
ment of the work is pretty nearly on a par, in 
respect to scientific skill, with Queen Emma's 
designs upon the Bayeux tapestry. About half 
a century ago, copies of these works were print- 
ed, by means of type made to represent the orig- 
inal character. But these printed editions were 
found unintelligible and useless until copious 
indexes were prepared, and published to accom- 
pany them, at great expense of time and labor. 
Some little idea of the character and style of 
this celebrated record may be obtained from the 
following specimen, which is as faithful an im- 

A.D. 1082.] The Conclusion. 273 

Specimen of the Domesday Book. Translation. 

itation of the original as any ordinary typogra- 
phy will allow : 

Xn atafyfatari SBurt&'i 

tf Com 

%V£ Un ftetimttttesse. Aetata 9 temiit. WZ w fcetft 

$. xUl J)f&. ra° $. pit. !>». &ra. e. MR. tar. J£Onfo. e una 

car. 7 fl*. bftli 7 fl?m. iorB cu. uw. rat. 

JIM ncfoa 7 jtilcjTs mta. 7 #. ac p a «. SUba* i. awe 

St $agnag : 

The passage, deciphered and expressed in 
full, stands thus — the letters omitted in the 
original, above, being supplied in italics : 

In B resist an HuNDrecfo. 
Rex tenet Bermundesye. Heraldws comes termit. Tunc 
se defendebat pro xiii. hides, modo pro xii. hides. Terra est viii. 
c&vrucatarum. In dominio es£ una eoxrucata et xxv. villani 
et xxxiii. hovdarii cu»i una enrmcata. Ibi nova et pulehra 
ecclesia, et xx. acrce prati. Silva v. porcis de pasnag^o. 

The English translation is as follows : 

In Brixistan Hundred. 
The king holds Bermundesye. Earl Herald held it [be- 
fore]. At that time it was rated at thirteen hides ; now, at 
twelve. The arable land is eight carrucates \or plow-lands]. 
There is one carrucate in demesne, and twenty -five villans, 
and thirty-three bordars, with one carrucate. There is a new 
and handsome church, with twenty acres of meadow, and 
woodland for five hogs in pasnage [pasturage] time. 

But we must pass on to the conclusion of the 
story. About the year 1082, Queen Matilda's 

274 William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's health declines. Death of her daughter. 

health began seriously to decline. She was 
harassed by a great many anxieties and cares 
connected with the affairs of state which de- 
volved upon her, and arising from the situation 
of her family : these anxieties produced great 
dejection of spirits, and aggravated, if they did 
not wholly cause, her bodily disease. She was at 
this time in Normandy. One great source of 
her mental suffering was her anxiety in respect 
to one of her daughters, who, as well as her- 
self, was declining in health. Forgetting her 
own danger in her earnest desires for the wel- 
fare of her child, she made a sort of pilgrimage 
to a monastery which contained the shrine of 
a certain saint, who, as she imagined, had pow- 
er to save her daughter. She laid a rich pres- 
ent on the shrine ; she offered before it most 
earnest prayers, imploring, with tears of bitter 
grief, the intercession of the saint, and mani- 
festing every outward symbol of humility and 
faith. She took her place in the religious serv- 
ices of the monastery, and conformed to its 
usages, as if she had been in the humblest pri- 
vate station. But all was in vain. The health 
of her beloved daughter continued to fail, until 
at length she died ; and Matilda, growing her- 
self more feeble, and almost broken hearted 

A.D.1083.] The Conclusion. 275 

Matilda retires to her palace at Caen. Her distress of mind. 

through grief, shut herself up in the palace at 

It was in the same palace which William 
had built, within his monastery, many long 
years before, at the time of their marriage. 
Matilda looked back to that period, and to the 
buoyant hopes and bright anticipations of pow- 
er, glory, and happiness which then filled her 
heart, with sadness and sorrow. The power 
and the glory had been attained, and in a meas- 
ure tenfold greater than she had imagined, but 
the happiness had never come. Ambition had 
been contending unceasingly for twenty years, 
among all the branches of her family, against 
domestic peace and love. She possessed, her- 
self, an aspiring mind, but the principles of ma- 
ternal and conjugal love were stronger in her 
heart than those of ambition ; and yet she was 
compelled to see ambition bearing down and de- 
stroying love in all its forms every where around 
her. Her last days were embittered by the 
breaking out of new contests between her hus- 
band and her son. 

Matilda sought for peace and comfort in mul- 
tiplying her religious services and observances. 
She fasted, she prayed, she interceded for the 
forgiveness of her sins with many tears. The 

276 "William the Conqueror. 

Matilda's health. Memorials of her. 

monks celebrated mass at her bed-side, and 
made, as she thought, by renewing the sacrifice 
of Christ, a fresh propitiation for her sins. Will- 
iam, who was then in Normandy, hearing of 
her forlorn and unhappy condition, came to see 
her. He arrived just in time to see her die. 

They conveyed her body from the palace in 
her husband's monastery at Caen to the convent 
which she had built. It was received there in 
solemn state, and deposited in the tomb. For 
centuries afterward, there remained many me- 
morials of her existence and her greatness there, 
in paintings, embroideries, sacred gifts, and rec- 
ords, which have been gradually wasted away 
by the hand of time. They have not, however, 
wholly disappeared, for travelers who visit the 
spot find that many memorials and traditions 
of Matilda linger there still. 

William himself did not live many years af- 
ter the death of his wife. He was several years 
older than she. In fact, he was now consider- 
ably advanced in age. He became extremely 
corpulent as he grew old, which, as he was orig- 
inally of a large frame, made him excessively 
unwieldy. The inconvenience resulting from 
this habit of body was not the only evil that 
attended it. It affected his health, and even 

A.D.1085.] The Conclusion. 277 

William's declining years. His fitfulness and discontent. 

threatened to end in serious if not fatal disease. 
While he was thus made comparatively help- 
less in body by the infirmities of his advancing 
age, he was nevertheless as active and restless 
in spirit as ever. It was, however, no longer 
the activity of youth, and hope, and progress 
which animated him, but rather the fitful un- 
easiness with which age agitates itself under 
the vexations which it sometimes has to endure, 
or struggles convulsively at the approach of real 
or imaginary dangers, threatening the posses- 
sions which it has been the work of life to gain. 
The dangers in William's case were real, not 
imaginary. He was continually threatened on 
every side. In fact, the very year before he 
died, the dissensions between himself and Rob- 
ert broke out anew, and he was obliged, un- 
wieldy and helpless as he was, to repair to Nor- 
mandy, at the head of an armed force, to quell 
the disturbances which Robert and his partisans 
had raised. 

Robert was countenanced and aided at this 
time by Philip, the king of France, who had 
always been King William's jealous and im- 
placable rival. Philip, who, as will be recollect- 
ed, was very young when William asked his 
aid at the time of his invasion of England, was 

278 William the Conqueror. 

Philip ridicules William. William's rage. 

now in middle life, and at the height of his 
power. As he had refused "William his aid, he 
was naturally somewhat envious and jealous of 
his success, and he was always ready to take 
part against him. He now aided and abetted 
Robert in his turbulence and insubordination, 
and ridiculed the helpless infirmities of the aged 

While William was in Normandy, he sub- 
mitted to a course of medical treatment, in the 
hope of diminishing his excessive corpulency, 
and relieving the disagreeable and dangerous 
symptoms which attended it. While thus in 
his physician's hands, he was, of course, con- 
fined to his chamber. Philip, in ridicule, called 
it " being in the straw." He asked some one 
who appeared at his court, having recently ar- 
rived from Normandy, whether the old woman 
of England was still in the straw. Some mis- 
erable tale-bearer, such as every where infest 
society at the present day, who delight in quot- 
ing to one friend what they think will excite 
their anger against another, repeated these 
words to William. Sick as he was, the sar- 
casm aroused him to a furious paroxysm of rage. 
He swore by " (rod's brightness and resurrec- 
tion" that, when he got out again, he would 

A.D. 1086.] The Conclusion. 279 

William's threats. Conflagration of Mantes. 

kindle such fires in Philip's dominions, in com- 
memoration of his delivery, as should make his 
realms too hot to hold him. 

He kept his word — at least so far as respects 
the kindling of the fires ; but the fires, instead 
of making Philip's realms too hot to hold him, 
by a strange yet just retribution, were simply 
the means of closing forever the mortal career 
of the hand that kindled them. The circum- 
stances of this final scene of the great conquer- 
or's earthly history were these : 

In the execution of his threat to make Philip's 
dominions too hot to hold him, William, as soon 
as he was able to mount his horse, headed an 
expedition, and crossed the frontiers of Nor- 
mandy, and moved forward into the heart of 
France, laying waste the country, as he ad- 
vanced, with fire and sword. He came soon to 
the town of Mantes, a town upon the Seine, 
directly on the road to Paris. "William's soldiers 
attacked the town with furious impetuosity, 
carried it by assault, and set it on fire. Will- 
iam followed them in, through the gates, glory- 
ing in the fulfillment of his threats of vengeance. 
Some timbers from a burning house had fallen 
into the street, and, burning there, had left a 
smoldering bed of embers, in which the fire was 

280 William the Conqueror. 

William's injury. His great danger. 

still remaining. William, excited with the 
feeling of exultation and victory, was riding 
unguardedly on through the scene of ruin he 
had made, issuing orders, and shouting in a 
frantic manner as he went, when he was sud- 
denly stopped hy a violent recoil of his horso 
from the burning embers, on which he had 
stepped, and which had been concealed from 
view by the ashes which covered them. Will- 
iam, unwieldy and comparatively helpless as 
he was, was thrown with great force upon the 
pommel of the saddle. He saved himself from 
falling from the horse, but he immediately 
found that he had sustained some serious inter- 
nal injury. He was obliged to dismount, and 
to be conveyed away, by a very sudden transi- 
tion, from the dreadful scene of conflagration 
and vengeance which he had been enacting, to 
the solemn chamber of death. They made a 
litter for him, and a corps of strong men was 
designated to bear the heavy and now helpless 
burden back to Normandy. 

They took the suffering monarch to Rouen. 
The ablest physicians were summoned to his 
bed-side. After examining his case, they con- 
cluded that he must die. The tidings threw 
the unhappy patient into a state of extreme 

A.D.1087.] The Conclusion. 283 

William's remorse. His last acts. 

anxiety and terror. . The recollection of the 
thousand deeds of selfish ambition and cruelty 
which he had been perpetrating, he said, all his 
days, filled him with remorse. He shrunk back 
with invincible dread from the hour, now so 
rapidly approaching, when he was to appear in 
judgment before Grod, and answer, like any 
common mortal, for his crimes. He had been 
accustomed all his life to consider himself as 
above all law, superior to all power, and beyond 
the reach of all judicial question. But now his 
time had come. He who had so often made 
others tremble, trembled now in his turn, with 
an acuteness of terror and distress which only 
the boldest and most high-handed offenders ever 
feel. He cried bitterly to (rod for forgiveness, 
and brought the monks around him to help him 
with incessant prayers. He ordered all the 
money that he had on hand to be given to the 
poor. He sent commands to have the churches 
which he had burned at Mantes rebuilt, and 
the other injuries which he had effected in his 
anger repaired. In a word, he gave himself 
very earnestly to the work of attempting, by 
all the means considered most efficacious in 
those days, to avert and appease the dreaded 
anger of heaven. 

284 "William the Conqueror. 

Robert absent. He receives Normandy. 

Of his three oldest sons, Robert was away ; 
the quarrel between him and his father had be- 
come irreconcilable, and he would not come to 
visit him, even in his dying hours. "William 
Rufus and Henry were there, and they remain- 
ed very constantly at their father's bed-side — 
not, however, from a principle of filial affection, 
but because they wanted to be present when he 
should express his last wishes in respect to the 
disposal of his dominions. Such an expression, 
though oral, would be binding as a will. When, 
at length, the king gave his dying directions in 
respect to the succession, it appeared that, aft- 
er all, he considered his right to the English 
throne as very doubtful in the sight of God. 
He had, in a former part of his life, promised 
Normandy to Robert, as his inheritance, when 
he himself should die ; and though he had so 
often refused to surrender it to him while he 
himself continued to live, he confirmed his title 
to the succession now. " I have promised it to 
him," he said, " and I keep my promise ; and 
yet I know that that will be a miserable coun- 
try which is subject to his government. He is 
a proud and foolish knave, and can never pros- 
per. As for my kingdom of England," he con- 
tinued, " I bequeath it to no one, for it was not 

A.D. 1087.] The Conclusion. 285 

William Rufus and Henry. The king's will. 

bequeathed to me. I acquired it by force, and 
at the price of blood. I leave it in the hands 
of Grod, only wishing that my son William Ru- 
fus may have it, for he has been submissive to 
me in all things." " And what do you give me, 
father?" asked Henry, eagerly, at this point. 
" I give you," said the king, " five thousand 
pounds from my treasury." " But what shall 
I do with my five thousand pounds," asked 
Henry, " if you do not give me either house or 
land ?" " Be quiet, my son," rejoined the king, 
" and trust in Grod. Let your brothers go be- 
fore you ; your turn will come after theirs." 

The object which had kept the young men at 
their father's bed-side having been now attain- 
ed, they both withdrew. Henry went to get 
his money, and William Rufus set off immedi- 
ately for England, to prepare the way for his 
own accession to the throne, as soon as his fa- 
ther should be no more. 

The king determined to be removed from his 
castle in Rouen to a monastery which was situ- 
ated at a short distance from the city, without 
the walls. The noise of the city disturbed him, 
and, besides, he thought he should feel safer to 
die on sacred ground. He was accordingly re- 
moved to the monastery. There, on the tenth 

286 "William the Conqueror. 

William's death. Abandonment of the body. 

of September, he was awakened in the morning 
by hearing the city bells ringing. He asked 
what it meant. He was told that the bells were 
ringing for the morning service at the church 
of St. Mary. He lifted up his hands, looked to 
heaven, and said, " I commend myself to my 
Lady Mary, the holy Mother of G-od," and al- 
most immediately expired. 

The readers of history have frequent occasion 
to be surprised at the sudden and total change 
which often takes place at the moment of the 
death of a mighty sovereign, and even some- 
times before his death, in the indications of the 
respect and consideration with which his attend- 
ants and followers regard him. In William's 
case, as has happened in many other cases since, 
the moment he ceased to breathe he was utter- 
ly abandoned. Every body fled, carrying with 
them, as they went, whatever they could seize 
from the chamber — the arms, the furniture, the 
dresses, and the plate ; for all these articles be- 
came their perquisites on the decease of their 
master. The almost incredible statement is 
made that the heartless monsters actually strip- 
ped the dead body of their sovereign, to make 
sure of all their dues, and left it naked on the 
stone floor, while they bore their prizes to a 

AJD. 1087.] The Conclusion. 287 

Apprehensions of the people. The body removed to Caen. 

place of safety. The body lay in this neglected 
state for many hours ; for the tidings of the 
great monarch's death, which was so sudden at 
last, produced, as it spread, universal excite- 
ment and apprehension. No one knew to what 
changes the event would lead, what wars would 
follow between the sons, or what insurrections 
or rebellions might have been secretly formed, 
to break out suddenly when this crisis should 
have arrived. Thus the whole community were 
thrown into a state of excitement and confusion. 

The monk and lay brethren of the monas- 
tery at length came in, took up the body, and 
prepared it for burial. They then brought 
crosses, tapers, and censers, and began to offer 
prayers and to chant requiems for the repose of 
the soul of the deceased. They sent also the 
Archbishop of Rouen, to know what was to be 
done with the body. The archbishop gave or- 
ders that it should be taken to Caen, and be 
deposited there in the monastery which William 
had erected at the time of his marriage. 

The tale which the ancient historians have 
told in respect to the interment is still more ex- 
traordinary, and more inconsistent with all the 
ideas we naturally form of the kind of consider- 
ation and honor which the remains of so great 

288 William the Conqueror. 

Extraordinary scenes. The body conveyed to the monastery on a cart. 

a potentate would receive at the hands of his 
household and his officers of state, than the ac- 
count of his death. It is said that all the mem- 
bers of his household, and all his officers, imme- 
diately after his decease, abandoned the town- 
all eagerly occupied in plans and maneuvers to 
secure their positions under the new reign. 
Some went in pursuit of Robert, and some to 
follow "William Rums. Henry locked up his 
money in a strong box, well ironed, and went 
off with it to find some place of security. There 
was nobody left to take the neglected body to 
the grave. 

At last a countryman was found who under- 
took to transport the heavy burden from Rouen 
to Caen. He procured a cart, and conveyed it 
from the monastery to the river, where it was 
put on board a vessel, and taken down the Seine 
to its mouth, and thence by sea to Caen. The 
Abbot of St. Stephen's, which was the name of 
William's monastery there, came, with some 
monks and a procession of the people, to accom- 
pany the body to the abbey. As this proces- 
sion was moving along, however, a fire broke 
out in the town, and the attendants, actuated 
either by a sense of duty requiring them to aid 
in extinguishing the flames, or by curiosity to 

A.D.1087.] The Conclusion. 289 

The procession broken up. Scene at the interment. 

witness the conflagration, abandoned the funer- 
al cortege. The procession was broken up, and 
the whole multitude, clergy and laity, went off 
to the fire, leaving the coffin, with its bearers, 
alone. The bearers, however, went on, and con- 
veyed their charge to the church within the ab- 
bey walls. 

"When the time arrived for the interment, a 
great company assembled to witness the cere- 
monies. Stones had been taken up in the 
church floor, and a grave dug. A stone coffin, 
a sort of sarcophagus, had been prepared, and 
placed in the grave as a receptacle for the body. 
When all was ready, and the body was about 
to be let down, a man suddenly came forward 
from the crowd and arrested the proceedings. 
He said that the land on which the abbey stood 
belonged to him ; that "William had taken for- 
cible possession of it, for the abbey, at the time 
of his marriage ; that he, the owner, had been 
compelled thus far to submit to this wrong, in- 
asmuch as he had, during William's life-time, 
no means of redress, but now he protested 
against a spoliation. " The land," he said, 
" is mine ; it belonged to my father. I have 
not sold it, or forfeited it, nor pledged it, nor 
given it. It is my right. I claim it. In the 

290 William the Conqueror. 

The sarcophagus too small. The body burst. 

name of Grod, I forbid you to put the body of the 
spoiler there, or to cover him with my ground." 

When the excitement and surprise which 
this denunciation had awakened had subsided 
a little, the bishops called this sudden claimant 
aside, examined the proofs of his allegations, 
and, finding that the case was truly as he stated 
it, they paid him, on the spot, a sum equal to 
the value of ground enough for a grave, and 
promised to take immediate measures for the 
payment of the rest. The remonstrant then 
consented that the interment might proceed. 

In attempting to let the body down into the 
place prepared for it, they found that the sar- 
cophagus was too small. They undertook to 
force the body in. In attempting this, the coffin 
was broken, and the body, already, through the 
long delays, advanced in decomposition, was 
burst. The monks brought incense and per- 
fumes, and burned and sprinkled them around 
the place, but in vain. The church was so of- 
fensive that every body abandoned it at once, 
except the workmen who remained to fill the 

While these things were transpiring in Nor- 
mandy, William Rufus had hastened to En- 

A.D.1087.] The Conclusion. 291 

William Rufus obtains possession of the English throne. 

gland, taking with him the evidences of his fa- 
ther's dying wish that he should succeed him 
on the English throne. Before he reached head- 
quarters there, he heard of his father's death, 
and he succeeded in inducing the Norman chief- 
tains to proclaim him king. Robert's friends 
made an effort to advance his claims, hut they 
could do nothing effectual for him, and so it 
was soon settled, by a treaty between the broth- 
ers, that William Rufus should reign in En- 
gland, while Robert was to content himself 
with his father's ancient domain of Normandy. 

The End.